President of Uruguay Calls for Legal Regulation of Marijuana
Uruguay Would Be First Country in World to Legally Supply Marijuana; Revenues Would Fund ‘Treatment’ and ‘Rehabilitation’
Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance: Bold Move by Uruguay Part of Growing Trend in Latin America; Moving from Whether to Legalize Marijuana to How
The government of Uruguay on Thursday announced that it will submit a proposal to legalize marijuana under government-controlled regulation and sale, making it the first country in the world where the state would sell marijuana directly to its citizens.
According to local media, the law would make marijuana legally available in government-authorized locations under certain criteria: there would be a national registry of consumers; sales would only be legal for adults over 18 years; there would be a maximum amount available per month per consumer (according to Toke of the Town‘s source in Uruguay, 40 joints per month); and strict quality controls would be ensured.
The price of marijuana would be set by the government and taxes from the sales would finance treatment and rehabilitation of “drug addicts.” The proposal was drafted by Uruguayan President José Mujica and his staff and requires parliamentary approval before being enacted.
The aim of the measure is to combat the rising insecurity and crime in Uruguay by removing the profits of marijuana sales from drug gangs, separating the marijuana market from those for other illegal drugs, and avoiding marijuana users’ exposure to drug dealers who also sell coca paste and cocaine.
Despite Uruguay being one of the safest countries in Latin America, it has faced an increase in crime from drug gangs due to its position on a drug transit route to Europe via West Africa. This increase in trafficking has also led to an increase in Uruguayan coca paste users.
“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking,” Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro told reporters on Wednesday. “We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself.”
Possession and consumption of marijuana was never criminalized in Uruguay.
In an interview in May, when asked about the legalization of marijuana, President Mujica replied, “I do not have the moral authority to stop the children from cultivating [marijuana] if I have smoked tobacco all of my life. Am I going to be an old conservative? As with everything, it should have limits, nothing should happen for smoking a few joints but that is not the same as being drugged up all day.”
“Uruguay is on the right track with removing criminal penalties from consumers but of course the devil is in the details,” Nadelmann said. “We are curious to see how this proposal develops.
“A government monopoly is rarely the best form of regulation,” Nadelmann pointed out. “Uruguay should closely study existing models such as the cannabis coffee shops in the Netherlands, social clubs in Spain, and the medical marijuana dispensaries in the United States.
“President Mujica’s instincts and principles are admirable,” Nadelmann said. “He must now find the best way to move forward. It is a true demonstration of how far the drug policy reform movement has come when the discussion has moved from whether to legalize to how to legalize.”
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