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.

Analysis

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
    -3

    Comment number 520.

    502.hellblazer

    Post some links demonstrating skunk use is declining. Then post some links demonstrating schizophrenia is decreasing. Not only are your comments not factual they are downright irresponsible.

    516.annieavatar

    I always enjoy your made up facts.

    509.Nick Ebrell

    I totally agree with you. I am commenting specifically on skunk use.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 519.

    @504
    Re: Pot = child porn.
    Nice...well we know where you're head is at. Me thinks you're surfing the wrong site.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 518.

    "Criminals will get legal jobs, the police will be able to concentrate on catching real criminals"

    How is stoned pilot safer than a drunk pilot? How is stoned firefighter/policeman better than not stoned? Who are you recruit those people from? Stoned/drugged population?

    Btw. It's not true that hard drug users harm only themselves. They harm their famillies. And resort to violent crime.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 517.

    492 hellblazer - After the laughable claim about tumors, I'm not sure you're the one to be quoting "science".

    495 DeadMike - There is no sensible reason for it to be legal. All "reasons" people provided are just wishful thinking. However the facts show it's damaging to physical & mental health. We simply don't need another vice, and if this becomes legal people will just demand more & more.

  • Comment number 516.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 515.

    Amsterdam is all thats needed as proof that it should be legal,idiots will always be idiots regardless of legality or not.I cant wait until this happens all over,the strength of uk grown side effect wise is the equivalent of someone who likes a drink having absynth every day.This is most likely responcible for the large number of mental issues.Legising it allows better control and grading.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 514.

    Cut out the criminal middleman and boost the economy by keeping the income off the black market. I know people who smoke it and I know people who don't. However I have never, ever heard someone say they don't smoke it just because it's illegal. This is why I don't think consumption will increase with legalisation. If you want to smoke it, you already will.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 513.

    Barry Obama claimed that he was just laike the lad excluded from school fro possession of cannabis.

    The question is - did Obama inhale?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 512.

    almost any drug is harmful if abused , many prescription drugs are many times more harmful than weed even if they are used as prescribed , cannabis ,if grown ,distributed and used properly , is way down there on the risk scale , tobacco and alcohol are way up there at the top , ! even though i no longer use cannabis i do strongly condone its use over alcohol which is poison .

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 511.

    2 friends are A&E consultants, both have told me in their careers they may have seen 2 or 3 kids who've smoked too much and freaked out a bit. when asked about drunks, they both said it takes up about 95% of their jobs at weekends, dealing with violent abusive people who are only in hospital due to over sconsumtion of alcohol. and we think weeds a problem... blah

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 510.

    It's been interesting guys, but try and have a mature debate about it.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 509.

    499, SallyPZ, Skunk may well cause MH problems, but this is because the weed available on the streets grown by gangs is the high yield, quick growing, low maintenance, and high in THC.

    There are hundreds of fantastic strains of marijuana so do not convince yourself they give the same effects like the one terrible skunk available from your friendly local neighbourhood drug dealer.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 508.

    Marijuana is an amazing herb with countless benefits. It has been much maligned which should be a cause for study in itself. Misuse of anything is just that and abuse of any substance is bad. Medicinally, economically it is a must and people who smoke too much you will find have issues anyway, that does not mean that the odd jay is a bad thing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 507.

    @499.SallyPlanetZog

    Amazingly enough, cannabis - like alcohol and even sex - is damaging to a developing body.

    Even more reason to legalise and age-limit - teenagers are a chaos of hormonal chemicals without providing easy access to one that interferes with that.

    In adults, however, it does not have a significant effect.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 506.

    @499 SallyPlanetZog

    "Three major studies have shown teenagers under 15 who use cannabis regularly, especially ‘skunk’ and othermore potent forms of the drug, are up to four times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26."

    Except even those studies don't say there's a causative effect and it's unknown if the effect is just because the schizophenia-prone are more attracted to it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 505.

    The Pope's not in favour? What a surprise. All socially recreational drugs should be legally available for the following reasons; Quality control - your Ecstasy or cocaine, &c, won't be cut with rat poison. Criminals will get legal jobs, the police will be able to concentrate on catching real criminals and, I suspect, once the novelty has worn off, drug use with level out and possibly decline.

  • Comment number 504.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 503.

    These policies trend right across the globe.Within a few years, most countries will have laws to similar effect.
    Does not discount the negative effects such drugs have on those who are addicted and unless there is adequate education or a major adjustment ocurs in society,people will continue to stupefy themselves with their last pennies to the detriment of themselves and sometimes their families.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 502.

    499.SallyPlanetZog

    I've already answered this Sally. I'm not denying those predisposed to mhealth problems can certain exacerbate their symptoms if they use cannabis, that isn't "everyone who uses it". Also, in the Uk weed use is increasing, yet schizophrenia is decreasing. It is still the persons choice, nobody elses.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 501.

    The term 'War on Drugs' was first used by Richard Nixon to deflect from the fact that he was illegally bombing Cambodia!

    Today 1 in 6 US prisoners are there because of cannabis. Imagine a world where police only got involved when a crime had been committed that involved a victim.
    Every cringeworthy thing I've done in my life I've done when I was drunk. When I'm stoned I am at my most considerate

 

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