First Nation in History to Fully Legalize Marijuana
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 08/09/2013 in Medical Marijuana News
Uruguay is just weeks away from becoming the first nation in history to legalize the usage, distribution, cultivation and production of marijuana for its citizens. The initiative is a response to the South American country’s incessant drug-related violence. And according to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the global attention on Uruguay could be a tipping point, demonstrating a swift shift in official South American policy.
“This isn’t a pro-marijuana bill. It’s a pro-reform bill aimed at benefiting all of Uruguayan society,” said Hannah Hetzer, of the U.S. based Drug Policy Alliance, who helped construct the bill. The lower-house who already approved the bill is now waiting on its approval in higher government’s hands. Assuming the measure surpasses Senate approval, this bill would historically mark the first time a national government has taken charge of both the distribution and production of marijuana.
Hetzer believes this legislation is, “a way of taking money away from the drug traffickers’ pockets, preventing what has happened in other countries in Latin America and taking a market that already exists but is now run by organized crime and putting it under the government control and a regulatory framework.”
More specifically, the measure specifies government control and regulation of the planting, cultivation, importation, harvesting, production, storage, acquisition, marketing and distribution of marijuana and all of its derivatives. And to compete with the current South American black market prices, the government bill plans to fix prices per gram, which, comparatively goes for about 20 dollars in America, for a staggeringly low $2.50.
Uruguay’s current strategy as far as distribution is concerned includes self-growing clubs, care centers and pharmacy sales. And under the government of leftist President Jose Mujica, notably, a doctor by training, full support has been given for the measure. Although Mujica has admittedly never inhaled or ingested marijuana, he understands how important this hot-button issue is for his pot-smoking citizens. However, some pharmacists are less than enthusiastic about the pending statutes. Virginia Olmos, president of the Association of Chemists and Pharmacists of Uruguay recently stated, “We disagree with the sale of a usable drug in a pharmacy, which is considered a health center.” If you find yourself absolutely appalled by the level of hypocrisy in this statement, so do we.
This groundbreaking action is meant to broadly legalize the drug, regulating and controlling Uruguay’s drug-related crime and recidivism rates. In other parts of the world, similar marijuana legalization movements have been inspired. In Africa, Morocco’s parliament is considering a draft legislation to legalize marijuana cultivation, allowing farmers to sell to the government. And in Canada, Democratic party leader, Justin Trudeau has publically stated his plans to legalize and tax cannabis. Although the federal government maintains a particularly strong anti-legalization stance, individual states, such as Colorado and Washington have decriminalized recreational and medical use. In turn, just this past Thursday, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana.
The broad coalition of organizations in support of the reform have formed a lobbying campaign, calling themselves, “Regulacion Responsible,” or “Responsible Regulation,” emphasizing, “the security, health and social benefits of regulating the black market for cannabis.”
The bill is hoping to do away with the legal contradiction in Uruguay’s current laws legalizing pot consumption but outlawing the growing, selling, distribution and possession of up to as little as one marijuana plant.
The New York Times reports, “Across Latin America, leaders appalled by the spread of drug-related violence are mulling policies that would have once been inconceivable…Uruguay has taken the experiment to another level. United Nations officials say no other country has seriously considered creating a completely legal state-managed monopoly for marijuana or any other substance prohibited by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Doing so would make Uruguay the world’s first marijuana republic –leapfrogging the Netherlands, which has officially ignored marijuana sales and use since 1976, and Portugal, which abolished all criminal penalties for drug use in 2001. Here, in contrast, a state-run industry would be born, created by government bureaucrats convinced that opposition to marijuana is simply outdated.”
Lawmaker Sebastian Sabini, an active participant in helping to draft the legislation made clear that,“The regulation is not meant to promote consumption. Consumption already exists.” In fact, marijuana use has doubled in the last decade in the small country of 3.4 million. It is indisputable that Uruguay’s drug-using population has rapidly become a narcotic epidemic. With highly addictive derivatives of cocaine flooding into South America, a crime wave of addicts have been fiercely seeking out their next fix. And although National Party Deputy Gerardo Amarilla feels the government is no doubt playing with fire, referring to marijuana as a gateway drug, Hetzer recognizes that,“Instead of closing their eyes to the problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking, Uruguay is taking an important step towards responsible regulation of an existing reality.”
Though some politicians feel Uruguay may be too small to swing the political debate pendulum, other political leaders regionally including the presidents of Colombia and Guatemala have begun advocating reconsideration of long-held anti-marijuana beliefs.
“Sometimes small countries do great things; Uruguay’s bold move does more than follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington. It provides a model for legally regulating marijuana that other countries, and U.S. states, will want to consider –and a precedent that will embolden others to follow in their footsteps.”