Cannabis in Uruguay
Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs in Uruguay. Prior to its legalization, possession for personal use was not penalized, although the former law did not specify quantity for "personal amount". On 10 December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the sale, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis, and the final stage in the legalization process was enacted by President José Mujica on 23 December 2013.
History of legalization
On 31 July 2013, the House of Representatives passed the bill to legalise and regulate the production and sale of cannabis and sent it to the country's Senate. The bill was approved by 50 affirmative votes (the minimum required) with all Deputies from the ruling Broad Front voting in favor and all the other Deputies voting against it. The bill was passed by the Senate's Health Commission on 26 November and was expected to be voted by the full Senate since November 2013.
In June 2012, the Uruguayan government, under Mujica, announced plans to legalise state-controlled sales of cannabis in order to fight drug-related crimes and health issues. The government stated that they will ask global leaders to do the same. Time magazine featured an article where it considers that Uruguay's proposal to legalize cannabis sales and make its government the sole seller reflects a growing worldwide urge to find new and less violent solutions to the drug war. Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa praised the decision as "courageous". Monocle magazine expressed its admiration for the bold step taken by President José Mujica.
Mujica's plan would allow users to cultivate the plant for non-commercial uses and grant licenses to professional farmers for larger scale production. The plan includes a system of user registry, a tax, and quality control, all coordinated through the existing agency that monitors tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals. He estimates that with 70,000 users, the country will have to produce more than 5,000 pounds each month. He also stated: "Uruguay wants to make a 'contribution to humanity' by legalising marijuana but will backtrack if the 'experiment' goes awry".
The cultivation, sale, and consumption of cannabis was legalized on 10 December 2013 by a 16–13 vote in the Senate. The country has 120 days to propose its plans through the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which will oversee the marketplace for cannabis. Julio Calzada, Secretary-General of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, explained in a December 2013 interview that the government will be responsible for regulating the production side of the process: "Companies can get a license to cultivate if they meet all the criteria. However, this won’t be a free market. The government will control the entire production and determine the price, quality, and maximum production volume."
Under the new law, people are allowed to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 oz) of cannabis from the Uruguayan government each month. Users have to be 18 or older and be registered in a national database to track their consumption. Cultivators are allowed to grow up to 6 crops at their homes each year and shall not surpass 480 grams (17 oz). Registered smoking clubs are allowed to grow 99 plants annually. Buying cannabis is prohibited to foreigners and it is illegal to move it across international borders.
Following the application of the president's signature on 23 December 2013, Uruguayan government officials are working towards a 9 April 2014 deadline to finalise the details of the new legislation. The entire system is expected to be established by the middle of 2014; but, as of 24 December 2013, it is legal to grow marijuana at home—up to six plants per family and a yearly amount of 480 grams, or about one pound.
Other countries have decriminalized cannabis consumption, while others have authorized its use for medical purposes; Uruguay is the first country in the world to legalize the whole process, from its cultivation, selling, and buying to consumption. The law intends to reduce the profit that drug trafficking creates for organized crime, as well as reducing the drug-related violence and the social problems associated with it. Uruguay has one of the lowest murder rates in the region (though by some estimates, crime was slightly increasing in 2013).
- Arguments for and against drug prohibition
- Drug liberalization
- Latin American drug legalization
- Legality of cannabis by country
- World Drug Report 2011. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Cannabis stats are from Chapter 22.214.171.124. Consumption: Annual prevalence of Cannabis, p. 217. "Sources: Annual Reports Questionnaires, Academic Researches, Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents (CICAD), Government Reports, European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports (INCSR)."
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- The traduction of the approved Law (English)