Officials in Bogotá, Colombia are currently considering a program that would use marijuana to help those addicted to hard drugs kick their deadly habit.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine. However, within the country thousands are addicted to basuco, a substance somewhat similar to crack but reportedly far less pure. It's essentially the leftover material from converting cocoa leaves into cocaine and contains unwanted residues including kerosene. Even more disturbing, dealers are known to add ash or crushed brick to the drug to increase its bulk.

The drug is smoked and produces a short lasting yet powerful high. Experts estimate at least 7,000 people in Bogotá are “problem users” – meaning they use the drug 15-20 times a day.

This ongoing problem has motivated the city to attempt experimental “controlled consumption centers” where addicts can use drugs at reduced doses while being weaned off more dangerous methods of intake. The goal is to eventually substitute cannabis for drugs such as basuco, allowing addicts to come full circle – from addiction to dangerous, dirty drugs to healing with a natural, medicinal herb.

According to Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance, this alternative approach to addiction is not being attempted in the U.S.

“Unfortunately, universities rely on grants from the federal government for research, so most of what they do is what the feds want done … the feds are not too interested in beneficial uses for marijuana, and even less interested in how to help people who are addicted to substances, so most of the research in this area occurs outside the U.S. or through private funding.”

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