There's apparently a form of cocaine more depraved than crack in Colombia called bazuco. The drug is a cheap, meth-like form of cocaine made with sulfuric acid and kerosene from leftover cocaine manufacturing residue. And like meth, it's users resort heavily to crime to support their habits.
With this public health menace before them, Bogota officials are trying everything to help bazuco addicts - including providing them with marijuana, the Miami Herald reports. Over the next few weeks, some 300 addicts will take part in a program that uses high-strength cannabis as a crutch to help them kick.
The idea is to use high-strength cannabis to help relieve the anxiety that comes with stopping bazuco cold turkey. The cannabis would help the addicts cope with the extreme physical withdraws as well. The program will also provide them with counseling, job training and a place to sleep if needed.
Ruben Dario Ramirez, director of the Center for the Study and Analysis of Coexistence and Security, is heading up the project. "People accuse us of turning bazuco addicts into marijuana addicts but that's an urban myth," he said. "This program is about reducing personal harm and the risks to society."
Not everyone thinks it is a good idea, and the program has it's share of critics. "This plan is completely absurd," Augusto Pérez, director of Nuevos Rumbos, a Colombian think-tank that researches drugs and addiction, told the Miami Herald "It's as if they didn't know that everyone that smokes bazuco already smokes marijuana. By giving them marijuana, all they will be doing is saving the (addicts) money so they can buy more bazuco."
But similar programs that use marijuana as an alternative to hard drugs have been successful in Canada, Brazil and Jamaica, leading advocates to believe they are on the right track.
"This project is not aimed at getting people to quit using," said Julián Andrés Quintero, the head of Acción Técnica Social, a community group involved with the project. "This is about reducing risks and mitigating the damage. We want people to quit a substance that is very, very damaging and transition to something less dangerous and which will allow them to function in society."
The program will likely get marijuana from local growers who will distribute directly to the bazuco addicts. Among those growers is Camilo Borrero, a former bazuco addict himself. He attributes marijuana to getting him off the drug and staying clean for the last three-plus years. Borrero now runs a company called Cannamedic that makes oils and lotions to help with arthritis.
"When I cured myself, I said 'I have to share this with everyone,'" he told the . "My life began three and a half years ago."
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Colombia, but small amounts are decimalized and personal use is generally tolerated. Medical marijuana is legal, however.