Uruguay Is Likely to Legalize Cannabis and Set the Tone for Latin American Drug Policy
This week, Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass the world’s most far-reaching drug legalization. The marijuana regulation bill, which has been passed by the lower house of the Uruguayan parliament, will allow registered users to buy up to 40 grams a month from a chemist, registered growers to keep up to six plants, and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.
The government is designing a new set of legal, commercial, and bureaucratic tools to supplant a violent illegal market in narcotics, improve public health, protect individual rights, raise tax revenues, and research the medical potential of the world’s most widely used contraband drug.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 162 million cannabis users — 4% of the world’s adult population. An estimated 10% of adult Uruguayans — 115,000 people — smoke cannabis. Existing law permits consumption of “reasonable” amounts of marijuana, but forbids sales.
Uruguay is trying to bring the cannabis market under state control by undercutting and outlawing traffickers. If the bill is passed, the government will arrange for a high-quality, legal product to be sold in a safe environment at competitive prices. “If one gram costs $1 in the black market, then we’ll sell the legal product for $1. If they drop the price to 75 cents, then we’ll put it at that level,” says Julio Calzada, a presidential adviser and the head of the National Committee on Drugs.
The market in Uruguay is estimated to be worth $30 million a year, according to Martin Fernández, a lawyer with the Association of Cannabis Studies. The pharmaceutical industry will have more freedom to develop and test marijuana painkillers and other treatments than any other country. The hemp, biotech, and marijuana farming industries are other examples of marijuana-related business opportunities that Uruguay can anticipate to yield big money if marijuana is legalized, as is expected.
President José Mujica, a reluctant advocate of marijuana regulation, says that legalization in Uruguay is “not about being free and open,” but is rather “a logical step” in taking users away from the black market. “We don’t defend marijuana or any other addiction. But worse than any drug is trafficking.”
Thanks to The Guardian