Uruguay’s Marijuana-Legalization Bid Opens New Chapter in Global Pot Debate

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MIGUEL ROJO / AFP / Getty Images

Uruguayan lawmakers vote on a marijuana-legalization bill in Montevideo, Uruguay, on July 31, 2013

Legislators in Uruguay’s lower house today narrowly voted to legalize marijuana in an ambitious effort to target the illegal drug trade that has plagued the region. The bill, which President José Mujica has strongly supported, is expected to pass in the Senate in the fall, though a majority of Uruguay’s citizens still oppose the measure.

In an extraordinary step, the government will purchase marijuana from licensed growers and distribute it to pharmacies, while private citizens will be permitted to grow the plant for their personal use. Under the law, only Uruguayan nationals will be allowed to purchase the drug, and purchases would be capped at 40 g per month.

Still, Uruguay’s legalization bid is likely the most radical marijuana legislation a country has attempted to adopt. Some countries, like Argentina and Portugal, have previously decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Others deliberately turn a blind eye: the Netherlands tacitly permits its sale through a policy of nonenforcement. In the U.S., the states of Washington and Colorado have passed similar legislation, but the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal narcotic. Uruguay would become the first country (perhaps other than North Korea) to allow marijuana to be grown and consumed by citizens for nonmedicinal purposes, and also the first to legalize a full-scale marijuana industry.

The country may be a prime guinea pig for the legalization movement. Shortly after the bill was proposed last year, TIME contributor and former Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett wrote:

Uruguay over the past decade has proved to be one of Latin America’s more competent states. (A few years ago, in fact, a U.S. diplomat told me, “It’s a shame Uruguay’s Presidents don’t head a bigger country.”) It has one of the strongest economies on the continent as well as one of the highest rankings on the U.N. Human Development Index and Transparency International’s corruption gauge. And as the pragmatic Mujica pointed out last week, experiments like this are often best undertaken by smaller nations like Uruguay and Portugal, which can serve as more-controlled laboratories for larger countries to study.

Regional leaders, including Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, have called on the hemisphere to reassess its U.S.-driven policy on drugs, and efforts to legalize pot have gained traction as a cost-effective, alternative way to combat Latin America’s illegal drug trade. Padgett wrote:

That trend, aimed at depriving violent drug gangs of part of their narcowealth, reflects growing exasperation with a drug war that is fueled largely by incorrigible U.S. consumption but wreaks its mayhem mostly in Latin America, where Mexico has seen [more than] 60,000 drug-related murders in the past six years.

But the region has struggled to sell legalization to the Obama Administration, which has opposed it at home and abroad. In May, Padgett reported on a study from the Organization of American States — a Washington, D.C.–based organization dedicated to regional cooperation — that urged the White House to warm to the legalization movement in South America. The 400-page, $2 million report concludes that the hemisphere is leaning “toward decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana. Sooner or later, decisions in this area will need to be taken.”

82 comments
Paulpot
Paulpot

A Noble Peace Prize to President Mujica and his colleagues. 
What they have done in Uruguay will prove to the world that there never was a need for the totalitarian police state approach to marijuana consumption. 
Over the next year the most importanat news we will hear from Uruguay will be the same news we heard from Colorado and Washington over the last year since they legalized, which is no news.
There have been no plagues of kids on drugs or road smashes due to marijuana. 
The hospitals are not full of OD's or schizophrenics high on drugs. 
Criminals have not taken over the state. 
It's just another day. 
What happens in Uruguay will echo around the world. 
As other nations follow and legalize, crime corruption, violence and terrorism will gradually decrease. 
Nothing could do more for world peace than ending the drug war.

DennisShelton
DennisShelton

Seems the smart way to go. And anyway it would be a great alternative to having to fly to Amsterdam for pot tourism. Uruguay will most likely see an upsurge in tourism. As would Mexico if they would simply legalize weed HERE in this U.S.A. then the Mexican cartels smuggling business would vanish overnight because there would be no more BLACK MARKET in the presence of an OPEN MARKET. Then the bullets would quit flying and the D.E.A. could focus solely on apprehending smugglers of harder drugs with a lot less manpower.

TheLejait
TheLejait

@Dvolatility J&J Owns 40% of the worlds legalized poppy production through Tasmania's poppy fields, just to put that in perspective

TheLejait
TheLejait

@Dvolatility This is news to me lol, I honestly dont know what to say, id like to know where theyre getting their supply and other things

WaynePhillips
WaynePhillips

Kudos to President José Mujica for moving Uruguay toward a common sense cannabis policy. It is quite telling that both the UN and the Obama Administration have problems with depriving violent drug gangs of part of the narcowealth. Both the UN and the Obama Administration may as well be drug cartel shills for all the good the international prohibiting of cannabis has garnered.

Prince Nelson
Prince Nelson

Good so they can focus on the real problem which is cocaine!

Whatanotion
Whatanotion

Licensing the use would be far better than mere legalization.  With licensing you can educate about the unknowns and the knows and thereby make a responsible deliberate choice that is tax worthy.  Merely legalizing helps no one, but the theoretical cost of law enforcement,  and misses nice taxing opportunities and limiting opportunities via educated use.    Time for Sovereigns to "get it" about being educated.  Capitulation is not a "leadership" way out.  Capitulation is more of a quitters way of not doing things in disgust and frustration.

SumayaAJ
SumayaAJ

@Dalal_Arch some1 listened to Sean Paul finally.. Some got gold & oil & diamonds all we got is Mary J Legalize it, time you recognize it

ThirdSection
ThirdSection

Kudos to Uruguay for becoming the least silly country on Earth!

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

After Putin told USA to take a hike regarding Snowden, the rest of the world can join Russia in telling the Obama bullies to take a hike.



Adam Despres
Adam Despres

Pot was only made illegal in the first place because it was a way to put hard working mexicans in jail who were taking white mans jobs. PLUS Hemp products massively cut into numerous industries profits, timber, pharma, oil, etc Refer Madnesss AHHH It'll make you kill your mother!

DavidStewart
DavidStewart

We are witnessing the death throes of prohibition while its advocates make a desperate and frantic last stand, their final frenzy.

In years to come, the attitudes that now prevail towards people that choose cannabis will be as politically incorrect as racism, homophobia or denying women the vote.

YokoyamaPj
YokoyamaPj

@TIME suarez, Don't smoke it. It will slow you down and you are the fastest guy in soccer! I love to watch you play!

SashaDowding
SashaDowding

Congratulations Uruguay for having the courage of your convictions and going ahead with your plan to regulate the cultivation and distribution of Cannabis.
I am really so incredbily impressed that you have the foresight to see that this is the only true, long term sustainable and logical way forward.
You have given back (at least partially) the peoples right and freedom to consume a plant that they have been using for over 4500 years.
My only grievance (however minor) is that you have chosen not to allow non-Urugayans to use Cannabis. Hopefully there is room for change on this matter in future.
When Uruguay starts to reap the enormous benefits that are awaiting her and every other country can witness it they will start following suit too. Just you wait and see!
Legalisation of Cannabis make economic sense and that will win over the politicians sooner or later. Money always wins the day.
Enjoy your soon to be new found freedom my Uruguayan brothers and sisters!

rocksockem
rocksockem

It seems like almost everyone wants marijuana to be legal in America except for: Ignorant/cowardly politicians, people profiting from it's illegality (that includes Law Enforcement and the Private Prison Industry), the makers of dangerous legal drugs, and those who want to force people into their drug rehab clinics (SAM; Patrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet), and a few older Americans that continue to believe the reefer madness lies...

rocksockem
rocksockem

I do so look forward to the day when Americans can once again live free. Because of marijuana prohibition we have lost a great deal of our freedoms and it is a real shame. People have lost respect for the Govt because of the lies related to marijuana that they have perpetrated over the years and they have lost respect for our law enforcement officers who do their bidding.

The most recent polls show that Americans want to end the War on Drugs and, in particular, legalize and regulate marijuana. I am disgusted that our Govt seems to have decided it is best to continue ruining the lives of thousands of people each year in spite of overwhelming evidence that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Indeed, it might even lead to a cure for cancer if our scientists were allowed to properly study it!

It seems like we have to wait until the old cigarette smoking alcoholics that currently make up our Congress get replaced or we get a president with some balls!

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

The third world countries are becoming first world countries while the anal retentive countries like the US become third world countries with a senile government, crumbling infrastructure, declining birth rates, and overall distrust of anyone in authority.


2Pylonius
2Pylonius

@TIME who was the first person in power to suggest pot was so bad and who became the leading force behind its negative propaganda?

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@DavidStewart I agree!  

We need to allocate some funding for grief therapy for all the cops, jailers, prosecutors and probation people who are so upset because THEY WON'T HAVE POT SMOKERS TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE.

These are last gasp efforts by the anti pot crowd to pitifully keep a scrap of importance in the world. Poor Prohibitionists.......

Whatanotion
Whatanotion

@YokoyamaPj @TIME But if you do;  remember to:    explore self enlightenment as is facilitated by the resulting natural introspection that follows,  Also think about your techniques to improve your soccer play.  And when you have that believable sex you might want to write down some of the adverbs and adjectives that come to mind.  Eventually wean yourself to no more than 3 uses per year.

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@rocksockem Funneling 750,000 people per year arrested for marijuana possession (that don't need rehab) through his rehab racket is Sabet's wet dream.  He smells the MONEY.

"Rehab Racket 

Troubled drug rehab clinics

In a rehab racket plagued by regulatory holes, paperwork trumps reality, a yearlong investigation by The Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN has found.

Thousands of pages of government records and dozens of interviews with counselors, patients and regulators reveal a widespread scheme to bilk the state's Medicaid system, the nation's largest. The populous Los Angeles region is one of the nation's top hot spots for health care fraud, and former state officials agree it is also ground zero for the rehab racket."


http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/29/health/rehab-racket-siu-cir-part-one/

sleuther
sleuther

@rocksockem  don't forget medical marijuana supporters. who think that subjugation and the belittlement of freedom is a fair trade for medication. if they have it their way pot would be medically acceptable, but never receationally. which in the grand scheme would be fine. but not when legalizing it would eventually (and quickly. probably.) restore it to whatever glory it is. not to mention use for nutritional regiment, industrial use, and just to mitigate oppression.

jj.wyndham
jj.wyndham

Bad dog! Bad! Go to your kennel!

PaulMcClancy
PaulMcClancy

@rKrJr @kreese88 

Untrue, as the Senate has more leftist members of the government, it will surely pass. Not sure where you got that information from. 

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@2Pylonius It was five robber barons in the 1920's: Hearst, Anslinger, Rockefeller, DuPont, and Mellon.

TheLejait
TheLejait

@Dvolatility Its the largest single ownership, they have a majority in the market and its gonna go up

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@PaulMcClancy  You are correct.  Other references have claimed that the bill will pas the upper house.

JoeCogan
JoeCogan

@KevinHunt Anslinger wasn't a robber baron. He was in charge of enforcing alcohol Prohibition, and when it ended, he needed a new gig.

rocksockem
rocksockem

@KevinHunt - Those names should be placed in history alongside Hitler since they have done damage to just as many people as the Nazi's!

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@JoeCogan He became a robber baron when he married into the Mellon family.

In 1917 Anslinger married Martha Kind Denniston, niece of Andrew W. Mellon .

PacificSage
PacificSage

@KevinHunt @rocksockem

You are forgetting Carnegie (steel) & Vanderbilt (trains). They, along with Rockefeller (the worlds wealthiest man) were kings who ruled the late 1800's. They were dealt with by 1920 (thanks in part to Theodore Roosevelt). What is significant about the 1920's was Prohibition, the establishment of the Mafia Commission & the Five Families of New York. (please look up this stuff, it's good reading, really)