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
    +30

    Comment number 540.

    I hope they and we legalise soon, huge amounts of people from all backgrounds smoke and do it sensibly. I resent working hard and seeing dealers and growers living extravagant lives and having more money than id ever have through the production and selling of a plant. If made legal then this unsavoury element would be eliminated as a 6 plant grow limit is enough for anyone. Please think government

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 539.

    504.Truth logic sustainability the final frontiers
    Now that one DID break the house rules.

    Can we, in the light of taking off my last comment have an appeal button?

    Pot has never done the same amount of damage that alcohol has done, to people since the Victorian gin palaces.

    I think the bar in Westminster is offensive - are MPs breathalysed before they take votes?

    They should be.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 538.

    @39 global yawn; i find that flatulence smells worse or is it the case you smell of flowers?! my dad (now 81) has smoked it since being diagnosed with arthritis aged 42; no side effects, no paranoia....

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 537.

    526.annieavatar

    This blog is about the legalization of cannabis and cannabis consumption, not alcohol. Avoiding the facts about the mayhem 'skunk' creates, particularly to young people by posting a random article on alcohol merely demonstrates the silly pro-cannabis argument. The same users who add cancer causing tobacco then claim tobacco is far more dangerous than cannabis.. Durrr.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 536.

    Hemp was widely grown the world over, especially in the UK, its use is well documented, clothing, oil..have a read about it before you judge..skunk is just skunk...I like alcohol but would not drink it pure...what disturbs me is the ignorance and why the governments have always been so against it, funding science to dig out reasons against its use..and still failing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 535.

    I would like to see it legalised. It would take the profit away from dealers who promote harder drugs to kids and perhaps we can actually regulate its use better.
    The government won't do that though because it is not taxable since as a natural plant it can be grown at home.

    Search;

    "Afghanistan opium production since invasion"
    "Head of DEA says CIA smuggle drugs"
    "Banks launder drug money"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 534.

    531 drunken hobo
    you are not the law
    stop snitching

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 533.

    100% of crack users started on breast milk. Fact.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 532.

    515.Mick
    "Amsterdam is all thats needed as proof that it should be legal"


    Obviously you haven't been to Netherlands for quite a while.

    Dutch government has severly limited sales of marijuana and hashish since reputable studies have shown that both are linked to an increase in crime, which has a measurable cost to both society and government.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 531.

    523 Bumble - Have you read it? Or have you just assumed because it supports your bias it must be right? Again this type of quoting is classic conspiracy theorist teritory.

    And quite simply, cannabis users are criminals who buy from criminals, that shows where they stand in the interests of the law. I don't want laws dictated by criminals thank you very much... well any more than they already are.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 530.

    If you want a laugh then arrange these comments by lowest rated then highest rated

    Those in favour of legalisation are clear with a wealth of arguments. Those against just spew out peter hitchens-esque righteous nonsense without a fact or figure to back it up. All their comments sound like their senile

    The BBC may be the daily mail's puppy but they can't suppress the truth forever. Legalise it!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 529.

    I guess Uruguay will get a tourist boost

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 528.

    Well a new holiday destination has been added to my list .........

    What about you? Square or cool?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 527.

    A key difference between Uruguay and the UK is that Uruguay doesn't have an immensely powerful and concerted Scottish Whiskey industry that, time and time again, has shown it can force legislation though Parliament that is favourable to its interests, and block unfavourable Bills.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 526.

    http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/press-releases/health-first-evidence-based-alcohol-strategy-uk
    British Medical Journal. Commenting on Alcohol marketing:grooming the next generation, RCP president,Sir Richard Thompson, said:
    This paper highlights our children’s continued exposure to alcohol marketing, and why we need to do more across the EU to reverse this trend.
    Better read facts silly Sal #520

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 525.

    504.Truth logic sustainability the final frontiers
    Having known quite a few people with serious problems related to alcohol abuse and having suffered it myself I would applaud your faulty logic/moral stand (eventhough I would disagree with it) if you were also campaigning for the abolition of alcohol and its complete ban.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 524.

    Discussing weed should be a non-issue as biggest dangers are police and courts. It's big business economics micro and macro

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 523.

    @517.Drunken Hobo
    'the facts show it's damaging to physical & mental health.'
    What facts? The ones you are making up in your head. Ever bothjered to read any of David Nutts reasearch (could you even understand it?). The goverment didn't bother. They just saw the headlines and sacked him.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 522.

    @504
    How is child abuse the same as marijuana use? What a ridiculous purile argument. Do you think it's safer keeping drugs in the hands of dangerous criminals? What about victims of their crimes in keeping the competition down? Or dealers exploiting young people in order to sell their stuff? Or the gun and violent crime involved with them?
    Stop reading the daily mail.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 521.

    This seems all about the bong calling the Pot black

 

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