Uruguay MPs back marijuana legalisation bill

Supporters of the bill camp outside parliament in Montevideo Those supporting the bill want it passed quickly

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Members of Uruguay's House of Representatives have passed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it goes on to be approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, who says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume "the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products".

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.

Political tussle

The bill was approved by 50 of the 96 MPs present in the lower house following a fierce 13-hour debate in the capital, Montevideo.

The supporters of the measure argued that the fight against drugs and drug trafficking had failed, and the country needed "new alternatives".

"The regulation is not to promote consumption; consumption already exists," said Sebastian Sabini of the governing centre-left Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, which has a majority of one in the lower house.


If approved by the Senate as expected, this will become a groundbreaking law, but not only for Uruguay. For decades, drug trafficking has caused thousands of deaths throughout Latin America in countries like Mexico or Colombia.

Legalisation has long been taboo for governments who aligned with the US anti drug policy, heavily dependent on law enforcement and prohibition.

This is still considered the orthodox approach and it is supported by conservatives and the Catholic Church.

But more and more leaders, like Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina and former Mexican president Vicente Fox, are asking to discuss decriminalising some drugs in an attempt to undermine the cartels.

Marijuana use has reportedly doubled in Uruguay over the past year. An estimated 22 tonnes of marijuana are being sold in the country annually, according to Uruguay's National Drugs Committee.

But Gerardo Amarilla of the opposition National Party said the government was "playing with fire" given the health risks he said were linked to marijuana use.

All eyes were on Dario Perez, a member of the governing coalition but a strong opponent of the bill, whose vote could have scuppered the bill.

During his 20-minute speech, Mr Perez reiterated his belief that the issue should be put to a referendum and not have been "imposed" by the government.

But to applause by supporters of the bill in the public gallery, he finally concluded that as long as he was a member of the coalition, he would vote with it, despite his personal misgivings.

The bill is now expected to be approved by the Senate, where the left-wing government has a bigger majority.

But opposition politicians said that even if the law made it through the senate, they would launch a petition to have it overturned.

A survey carried out before the vote by polling organisation Cifra suggested 63% of Uruguayans opposed the bill.

Papal opposition

The progress of the bill is being watched closely across the region, says BBC Mundo correspondent in the region Ignacio de los Reyes.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica on a visit to Cuba on 25 July 2013 President Jose Mujica says he has never tried marijuana but believes it should be legalised

For decades, drug trafficking has caused tens of thousands of deaths throughout Latin America.

Uruguay may have not experienced the bloodshed caused by drug trafficking, but the proposal could be seen as a test for violence-torn nations looking for an end to their drug wars, our correspondent adds.

The vote also comes just days after Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to neighbouring Brazil.

The pontiff said it was "necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The article doesn't refer to any physical or mental health research, so it's difficult to say if the decision is a good one?

    Watching a quiet young man descend into state where he completely looses his mind is not a pleasant experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I'd be interested to see any figures/estimates on how many jobs in the UK legalisation would create. Not just in retail but production, packaging, warehousing, distribution, marketing etc. How much court/prison/police capacity would be freed up to focus on dangerous/violent crime?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    @136. laxluther

    You're talking to the wrong people....

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    If it was good enough for Carl Sagan, it's good enough for me... good luck Uruguay

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    OnesMaw - I think you'll find trhe quality has increased (well the strength) and the price has increased for most people, an 1/8 is not an 1/8 anymore, in most cities your talking about 2.3 grams for 20 which is about two thirds of an 1/8.

    Unless your talking about pointless hippy weed ofcourse - which only old crusty weridos smoke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    @129.CURTAINS 2012
    "I've yet to see any to see any promotion of cannabis smoke based upon its taste or smell."

    Look harder. As it is prohibited, production is based on what gives criminals the biggest yield. Look to Holland you will see different varieties have different flavours, different psychoactive properties, and therefore different uses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    @114 it is NOT legal in the Netherlands. Its decriminalised.

    @127 I'm sure most would rather pay more if it was legal. Like most do with Alcohol, everyone can buy it cheaper on the black market but most don't.

    @126 HAHAHAHAHA!! Sorry but you deserve nothing more than an idiotic response to your idiotic post! How can one person be so ignorant to the facts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    122. bro3886
    "incidentally marijuana undoubtedly lowers productivity despite calming people down...not sure how this will prevent it acting as a gateway drug to other harder drugs still?"
    Drinking booze lowers my productivity but I don't tend to drink while at work and the gateway theory was debunked a long time ago, what it will do is separate hard and soft drugs like in the Netherlands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    . . . . . .Oh. . . . . .and I have a Mensa IQ of 138

    Good stuff - but you need an IQ of 148 (on the Cattell scale - which is the most widely used test) to get into Mensa. If the test you did was the Stanford-Binet, then you'd have made the grade though...
    If you were stoned when you did the test, then it's an impressive score no matter what scale it is !

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Question for all the safe, successful, regular users of cannabis. Is the proposed 40g per month allowance in Uruguay adequate for what you want to use? If not would you limit yourselves to this, or would you top up from illegal dealers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Even the editor is ignorant of this drug. . . . . .The only real issue with it is that it shouldn't be smoked during puberty. The reason being is that it 'can' upset the 'chemical changes' that happen in the brain during this time, which 'can' cause psycosis. . . . .If it were legalised, then measures can be put in place to prevent youngsters buying it. At present they can and do

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    7 Minutes ago

    Would you rather buy a decent bottle of wine from the shop or make some cheap plonk in your airing cupboard?


    Homemade fruit and vegetable wines are delicious and have individual characters. I've yet to see any to see any promotion of cannabis smoke based upon its taste or smell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    @Global Yawning- You made me laugh with your comments and I do not even smoke in the morning lol. So by your perception someone goes to the pub and has a couple of pints after work. Someone gets home has a couple of joints after work and he is in your mind a addict. By the way do you work with the present goverment with have?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    I seem to remember a channel 4 programme that looked at whether a government or private company could make the prices lower to make it unprofitable for the dealers (if legalised). They would have to tax it, regulate it, use secure growing compounds, package it & ship it around the country. At the time, they stated it would be more expensive from the legal means than the black market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Cannabis is one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet. Gordon Brown had to re-classify it because criminals were developing lethal strains of skunk that can kill. When you have someone hooked, in order to pay for their habit to the drug dealer, they will have to turn to crime and prostitution. There should a mandatory ten year sentence for possession of even a gramme of this dreadful poison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    You have to remember in the 1940s/50s smoking was considered healthy.
    Here we are again 60 years later with people saying that dope is not dangerous. Well there has been studies that show when smoked it is 4 times more cancer causing than tobacco.
    There are also very many clear cases that for many people it caused insanity.
    It's your choice.If you believe you're not a dope, then go ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    'Having seen young lives wrecked by the pyschological problems caused by cannabis, I feel sorry about this decision and the impact it will have'
    Admittidly a small minority do have pyschological problems from from dope but the same can b said for alcohol. If it was legalised then a minimum age limit can be put in place as currently 12 yr olds can get their hads on dope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    We hear a lot about the costs of alcohol / tobacco related problems to the Government but nothing about the alcohol / tobacco related income (excise taxes).

    Income - costs = Nice little earner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I'm 100% sure this will just cause dealers to sell more, cheaper. Then you have more people on the drug - incidentally marijuana undoubtedly lowers productivity despite calming people down, with the "profit" being massively diverted still. And, not sure how this will prevent it acting as a gateway drug to other harder drugs still?

    Good luck Uraguay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    It is the government's intention to legislate next year a policy of zero tolerance towards drug driving. This will mean that anyone driving with detectable levels of cannabis/ 7 other illegal drugs will be at risk of a year's ban, £1000 fine and possible imprisonment. As usual they ignored expert opinion in favour of appearing tough on drugs and sending a message. Another win for the Daily Mail ?


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