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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  • Comment number 820.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.


    Oh I get it now I am another Sally. Demonstrating perfectly that long term cannabis consumption irreparable damages cognitive function.


    I agree with you Jason I however do not agree hard drugs like super-skunk should be legalised.


    The mythical strain that is 15% THC, widely available all over the UK and grown by organised crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Bold move. Hard to argue against with any degree of logic. Hope it achieves the positive results any sane person wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    @810 Soundchaser "Speak to the people there and ask them about the effects cannabis has had on their lives - and their families"

    Then speak to everyone who's lost a friend or relative because of either acute or chronic alcohol use (I've seen both). Alcohol is not just dangerous because its legal

    And it's not clouding the debate to say that prohibition of cannabis does more harm than good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    5 Minutes ago

    Now that you accept that cannabis use is detrimental to rational decision making, in the same way as alcohol does this not make the irrational views of potheads irrelevent to this debate?


    Love it when someone bites their own foot off - How come alcohol is legal then? and cannabis isn't?

  • Comment number 815.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    So Sally why did you smoke (or whatever) in the 1st place?
    Or did you maybe realise you could afford the Bolly after all?
    Enough of the fripperies

    .Look at it this way: if we did legalise cannabis, then the £500m we spend policing it every year could be spent cleaning up the mess caused by the booze - which, incidentally, is plentiful at your local supermarket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Bleh blah... does this not make the irrational views of potheads irrelevent to this debate?

    No, because the effect of pot is not ever lasting, same as drink. Do you think a pilot that has had a drink but is now sober, and plans to have drink after his flight should never be allowed to fly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    730. angry_of_garston
    Would those supporting cannabis use be happy to sit in a plane as it lands where the pilot and air traffic controller had just come back from their, perfecly legal, spliff break?

    Is this a regular problem in the airline industry with currently legal intoxicants? If not, why would you postulate it to be a problem with a different intoxicant? Or was it just a poor straw-man?

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    @800 pretty sure she's referring to 'super skunk' which is a mythical strain only found in the imagination of daily mail readers, if you smoke it you instantly become a schizophrenic benefit scrounger with 18 kids and an attitude problem.
    it is very scary though, if you're particularly slow or naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    All of you who think this is a good idea should attend any NA/CA meeting that's close to you - and you will find one close to you. Speak to the people there and ask them about the effects cannabis has had on their lives - and their families. Alcohol is very harmful too and it's probably more harmful because it's legal, but don't cloud the debate with that comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.


    They bring alchol up because its a drug also so its highly relevant for comparison.When discussing a matter like this you will always refer to similar siuations for referenc if you have half a brain.

    Im an aerospace engineer so probably earn more than in a week than these hate spouting anti cannabis clowns make a month so these idiotic statements are becoming rather offensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    "I assume you are campaigning why would I campaign for you?" Why would I? Banning alcohol because some people have adverse reaction to it doesn't solve the problem, they would still buy it on the "black market" where it would likely be stronger, cheaper, full of harmful chemicals and potentially more lethal. Its better its legal and they recognise they need help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    From all the posts on here it is clear that the UK needs a sensible debate on the legalisation of cannabis. And from what I have seen most people are rational enough to legalise it and take us out of this ridiculous form of prohibition that leads to the growth of organised crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    'Yes of course you do. I stopped smoking drugs when I grew up. Aged 20.'
    But who are you to dictate what is grwon up, I have a well paid job, got a mortgage you gave up @ 20, big deal, doesn't give u the moral high ground infact ur narrow mindedness and ur blatantly transparent lies make u look childish. U have hardly grown up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    Midnight Express anyone !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    797. Saro-Wiwa "your shrill crusade agains weed is monotonous and tedious are you a parody of the old sally"

    If it's the same person then that's quite entertaining. The various Sallys and Bastiats would usually have been screaming about government interference in the lives of free citizens.

    @801. angry_of_garston

    Please separate "stoned right now" from "has ever smoked cannabis" then come back

  • Comment number 803.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    After watching and living with the disgusting abuse administered on cannabis users, especially in the 80's and in India where people have been given 10 year sentences for minimal possession (US bribery in anti-drug war influence) I am amazed that even now people call it 'killer cannabis'. Wake up and decriminalise it and grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    @789 ernie "No we don't want stoned pilots just like we don't want drunk ones"

    By golly I think you've got it.

    Now that you accept that cannabis use is detrimental to rational decision making, in the same way as alcohol does this not make the irrational views of potheads irrelevent to this debate?


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