Colombian President Santos backs medical marijuana use

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gives his thumb up on August 7, 2014 in Bogota, Colombia. President Santos said medical marijuana would help people with terminal illnesses

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said he supports the legalisation of marijuana for medical use.

Mr Santos said the measure - which is due to be voted on by Colombian lawmakers - would be a "compassionate response" to pain experienced by people with terminal illnesses.

During a forum on drug policies, he also said it would take away business from drug traffickers.

Colombia has been plagued by decades of drug-related violence.

Marijuana is grown illegally in Colombia, but the Andean country is better known as the world's biggest producer of cocaine, along with Peru.

Most of the illicit drugs are smuggled into the United States via Central America and Mexico.

"We look favourably on the initiative on the medical and therapeutic use of marijuana," Mr Santos told the drugs forum in the Colombian capital, Bogota.

"It's a way to stop criminals from acting as intermediaries between the patient and a substance that is going to ease their suffering."

The bill on the legalisation of medical marijuana, which was put forward by Mr Santos' governing party, is due to be debated in the current session of the Colombian Congress.

The drug trade, especially of cocaine, has provided left-wing rebels in Colombia with a lucrative source of illegal funds and further fuelled the country's decades-old internal armed conflict.

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