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 160.

    I see the lowest rated comments are depressingly ill-informed as usual.

    Seriously guys, learn how to use a search engine, it's not that difficult, even stoners can do it, so why can’t you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    141. Redman6

    All you users out there - I am not a cannabis user mate.

    All I am saying that pot should be treated in the same way as alcohol.

    I KNOW that alcohol causes many deaths a year in the UK as well as the deaths of innocent people on the road.

    Cannabis is not as harmful as alcohol - fact.

    In fact many MPs have used pot - fact.

    Legalise it,control it(18s only) and it becomes safer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    How enlightened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    "Having seen young lives wrecked by the pyschological problems" If alcohol was illegal it would be sold with a lot higher proof, this is the same problem with canabis. It constantly being changed to become stronger and stronger. Regulation would limit its strengths and the damage it causes

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    The other side of dope is the resin. In the 1980's my wife was staying with her cousins in the British Embassy in Islamabad Pakistan. It was common knowledge that the drug producers put a little heroin in with the resin mix.(to give it a kick) After all, there is more profit if they can get you onto a more addictive drug.
    Its not all produced in a mate's greenhouse in Surrey you know. Good luck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.


    Having seen young lives wrecked by the pyschological problems caused by cannabis,
    Fare point. How about this point: -

    Having seen young lives wrecked by the psychological problems caused by bad parenting.

    So we stop people from having children? It's time that we stopped punishing responsible people for the crimes of irresponsible people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I would WARN anyone of the consequences of smoking or eating cannabis.

    You MUST NOT even consider doing this.

    Unless you have lots of packets of chocolate hobnobs in the house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    @132 Connor

    I took the test 18 years ago. . . . .That should help you decide on wether 'how they grade you' may have changed since then. I am not a liar, if that's what you are trying to say :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    #134. I agree that people would prefer to buy it from legal means & would probably pay a bit more for it. I was responding to the people that thought the black market would be priced out if it was grown legally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.


    Regarding mental health - the research to which you refer did not show cannabis use causing any mental health issues.

    It merely showed that those already predisposed to psychotic illness (family history) might be pushed over the edge by excessive/daily use over a number of years.

    But it did not show any risk to the fully healthy in that regard.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    102: "but, over use does make you want to do nothing and turns you into an idle so an so"
    - True, but that's surely the mildest effect of overuse of any drug. Compare to alcohol, where over-use causes violence, liver damage and eventually death - sadly my parents' neighbour has just succumbed to alcohol, leaving 2 kids. Good bloke as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    The US cotton/booze interests lobbied against hemp, hence UK followed suit. Al Caponr thanked prohibition. Alcohol costs the UK 10x more p.a than the entire UK "drug problem" (it IS the UK drug problem).
    Good for Uruguay - I expect some sort of sabotage - maybe a US invasion ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Further to my comment 121 : if you want to know more about the proposed legislation, which will impact more severely on cannabis users than users of other quickly metabolised drugs, then there is a downloadable consultation document prepared by the Dept. of Transport. There is a link to this on the CLEAR website.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    125. Tony Martin
    "...there has been studies that show when smoked it is 4 times more cancer causing than tobacco."


    What 'research' are you quoting? You will find it's the tobacco mixed with the cannabis that is carcinogenic...and as joints tend not to have the filters cigarettes have the smoker ingests more of the harmful tobacco by-products.

    Eating cannabis causes no ill effects :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.


    My point exactly; if you want harder drugs you try harder drugs, so the legalisation (or not) plays no part in this aspect of it. I understand entirely what you are saying but if we are going to do the whole analogy between alcohol and weed consider this:

    *Both have been available and used for millenia yes. Similar effects. Booze is still at ~40% strength top, cannabis... skunk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    A worrying comment I am hearing of late by some against weed smoking, maybe tobacco baron plants(:)), is that skunk is the new heroin. That is frightening as that may encourage those that smoke pot to think it's alright to have heroin, surely a dreadful path to take. However, maybe they are right and it is, I really don't know maybe an expert could shed some light.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    'The quality available and price have not moved with inflation - it was and still is 20 for an 1/8'
    I think you will find it has, when was the last time you bothered to weigh ur 1/8? Try it next time, I bet you won't be getting a 3.5g deal you'll be lucky to get between 2g and 2.5g these days for £20. Dealers keep calling it an 1/8 but have just been giving u less for £20.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Yes I would say so. Either way everywhere that it's been either legalised or decriminalised has allowed you to grow several plants at home. I know that's I would do mainly and leave the coffeshops and dispensaries to produce the hashes, butters, etc. and buy those there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Any one smoking marijuana in this country should be thrown in prison and denied the right to any state benefits whatsoever for the rest of their lives!!!!!

    Couldn't care less what some tinpot country in S America does!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    @114 annieavatar. Cannabis is not, and never has been, legal in Holland.

    Decriminalisation is not the same as legalisation.

    I think all you cannabis users out there may have a stronger argument if the trial of roadside drug testing equipment, similar to breath testing for alcohol is successful.


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