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 560.

    Here's my take - Go into any A&E dept in the UK on a Fri \ Sat night and do a straw poll on how many people are in there becuase they've overdone it with alcohol and hurt themselves, gotten into a fight or near on poisoned themselves with it. Now wander round and see if ANYONE is there for the same reasons due to cannabis, I reckon it'd be roughly 0%....need I say more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    The fact that cannabis is far less dangerous than legalised alcohol makes it very relevant here, in this HYS.

    Read the above for the other side of the story.

    Loosing the argument I know can be hard but have a think -
    Over a nice bottle of red wine eh?

    Bye, have a nice day;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    The main reason why cannabis was made illegal in the UK is that people started to smoke it on mass they would grow it a smoke instead of buying very taxable alcohol, the trouble is that back in the late 60's the Tetrahydrocannabinol, levels were as low a 3 to 4 % per gram, now it is more like 20% so re-legalisation here would be very dangerous unless 3 to 4% THC levels can be re-established.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    3 Minutes ago
    Grass for the cattle, herb for the use of man.. I got a 2.1(hons) in Aerospace Engineering thanks to herb..


    787 still isn't fixed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    Marajuana is less harmful than alcohol. That simple fact alone should be enough for any rational government to legalise it!

    Beyond that, it is a human right for me to be able to do what I want to my body. I'm allowed to binge drink (v. harmful), become obese (v. harmful), smoke ciggies (v.harmful) but not use marajuana?!?! Where is the logic?

    Legalise it asap

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    I have a question for SallyPlanetZog

    Why do you support black markets and drug dealers so much ?
    Wouldn't a tightly regulated legal market be much better then buying from street dealers ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    I'm addicted to David Cameron. Can we make him illegal? PLEASE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    Tourist Season
    Didn't NSA briefings give PMK that memo that Amsterdam are still selling the herbs* in coffee shops as Government backtracked due to harm in tourism bucks, or is he one-sided-biased and not blind-sided-ignorant

    (*) by the ton load
    we touch the road

    Reggae Music
    Is one of Jah Jah's favourite Weapon
    Bust the place

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    501: "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".
    - That is so true. The point about sensible cannabis use is that it opens the mind to proper discussion so you can think through the issues and come up with proper solutions. That's why the Daily Mail and other tabloids are so against it, they just want blind followers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Cannabis did not "chill" Daniel Pelka's parents enough to prevent his murder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    How many stories or "official truths about cannabis" have we gone threw ?

    The Official TRUTH If you smoke it...
    If you smoke it... You Will Kill People

    THE NEW OFFICIAL TRUTH If you smoke it...
    If you smoke it YOU WILL GO INSANE

    Official Replacement TRUTH If you smoke it...
    YOU WILL BECOME A Heroin Addict!

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    466.Drunken Hobo
    Other "more dangerous" substances being legal isn't an argument for legalising cannabis. You have to show why it'd be beneficial, and simply, it isn't.
    No you don't I'm not sure you understand what the law is for. It is up to others to prove it is harmful.
    As this isn't a binary state it is necessary to compare it with other substances within our culture with are allowed/not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    Grass for the cattle, herb for the use of man.. I got a 2.1(hons) in Aerospace Engineering thanks to herb.. Hello Uruguay, i'll be making a visit there soon me thinks ;D

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    @531 The real criminals are the ones leaving it in the hands of dangerous men who have no restrictions on how they sell it.
    Oh and do you think health problems associated with weed will go away if it continues to be illegal. Maybe legalising it and stopping dealers from maniplulating it to make it stronger would be a better idea. You don't have to do it so why tell others what they can't do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    531.Drunken Hobo
    "I don't want laws dictated by criminals thank you very much". Laws are there to be changed, prior to 1918 it was against the law for women to vote. This same women eventually had the law changed. Should this law have stayed as it was because the potential law breakers were acting to get it changed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Good for Uruguay. I used to be a very regular user but in recent years I have relatively curbed the habit for "financial" reasons. I feel from my own past experience that this drug is far less dangerous than alcohol. Never have I seen someone high on pot shouting at street corners, vomiting outside take-aways or fighting strangers on the streets in a drug fuelled rage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    @528 & 529:

    Sorry, to put a downer on this.

    >Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Yes I have and I follow his blog as well, You still havn't answed my question though, unless you count answering a question with another question which is a classic avoidance tactic. So I'm going to ask you another question have you ever read any scientific paper on cannabis use?
    But it's good to see that ignorance and bigotry is alive and well in the UK today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    531.Drunken Hobo - Sensible reasons for legalisation :-

    Controlled supply - Taxable revenue - Freeing police/courts/prison capacity - Removing the £'s from organised crime - A new industry (JOBS) - Boost to the economy - Proven to reduce misuse - Increased £'s for drug education.

    Why are you so keen to support organised crime?

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.


    Where is her rebuttal?


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