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 840.

    SallyPlanetZog "I smoked the skunk"

    Fact about people like Sally; There's only two types of people who are against drugs: the people who have never done drugs and the people who really sucked at doing drugs.

    Sally "Skunk is a hardcore drug"
    Sally I think that you need to go Google and learn more about Cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.

    'The truth- approximately 500,000 people in the UK die every year from various causes.
    None from cannabis use - ever.'
    As pro cannabis as I am, that kind of claim does irk me as bud is known to have carcinogens in it so when smoked, even if the person only smokes bongs/pipes it can lead to smoking related diseases. Best way is to vaporize it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    My father smoked pot at Woodstock. A different time and a different 'strand'. Nowadays the only readily available option in the UK is 'skunk' which is super strong.
    Once legalised I hope they offer a choice to the public. As with alcohol, there are stronger and weaker varieties, and you don't always want a whisky when a beer would suffice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    This image of dim witted stoners was an American Hollywood anachronism invented and propounded by the prohibitionist lobby and somehow has stuck in public consciousness. The first pot smokers in the UK were middle and upper class students but now it seems to be only sloping browed stooping troglodytes from council sink estates, according to those who still believe in Hollywood fantasies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.


    "it's normally recovered addicts .. balanced account of all aspects"

    Yes ex addicts avoid skunk like the plague.

    "who is full of the bile you are,"

    Do you have to pepper every comment with insults because I happen to have an opinion that differs from your own.

    828.Mr Max

    Skunk fits neatly for the purposes of this blog which only allows 400 characters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    Just now
    The corollary is that if you legalise cannabis more will take it and more will be adversly affected - just like alcohol.


    I believe both Portugal and Amsterdam (Holland) would give you facts about how legalising made things better far better in lots of areas associated

  • Comment number 834.

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

  • Comment number 833.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.


    The Daily Mail says 30,000 dies from cannabis use every year!!!!!

    Ridiculous statistic plucked out of nothing to sell their paper.

    The truth- approximately 500,000 people in the UK die every year from various causes.

    None from cannabis use - ever.

    Sal- have you thought of setting up a funeral home? x

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    801. angry_of_garston
    "does this not make the irrational views of potheads irrelevent to this debate?"

    If I wanted to fix my car but didn't know what i was doing, i would gladly take the advice of a mechanic over someone who had read about fixing cars in a newspaper.

    Why do you assume that people with no first hand experience of something make better decisions about it?

    That's absurd.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    @817 I didn't say alcohol was dangerous because it was legal. It's effects are more numerous and obvious because it is legal and more people take it. Alcohol is a poison. I've lost friends AND relatives to BOTH.

    The corollary is that if you legalise cannabis more will take it and more will be adversly affected - just like alcohol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.


    Im sorry but your now talking verbal dihorea,just dont get involved if you just want to argue for the sake of it.

    You imply that a smoker will have it constantly or will be under the influence constantly which is frankly garbage as i like a pint at times too but im not constantly drunk.If ive got half a brain well...ive got bad new for you my friend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    819. SallyPlanetZog

    You claim that "super-skunk" is a "hard drug" because it's "15% THC". None of these are real classifications. Super-skunk isn't an official thing. It's a press-term, there's no real or official criteria where it crosses into "super-skunk". It's a made up term by the press because it makes people (like yourself) panic.

    And you've believed it. And panicked.


  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    Why should i go to a NA meeting. Save that for real addmicts.
    I mean come on really "Marijuana addiction." Really Marijuana was to hardcore for you? Lets give everyone a bandaid for their problems in life. Whats next Porn Addiction? Video game Addiction ? Fast Food Addiction?I Love it people cant control themselves so everyone becomes responsible for everyones irresponsibilities . Thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    "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?"
    If you expand on your argument then people who drink or have drunk alcohol are irrational and so their views should also be held as irrelevant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    @798 ah so you used to smoke it but now you don't; hypocrite !!!! nowt worse than an ex smoker......

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    810 @
    I could personally take 2 lawyers 2 G.P.s. and a academic who is a personal friend and several of his friends all of which smoke/eat cannabis. Its the same old bleat from the same old bleaters ! just because you and yer bleating NA/CA have some people who blame it all on the blow. means nothing to the millions who use without problems .. the will of the many out weigh that of the few SPOCK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.


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


    The only thing irrational is your view of a substance and a group of people of whom it is abundantly clear that you have no knowledge.

    When you have a point that isn't entirely founded on 'potheads are all permanently stoned and dim', please do share. I'll not hold my breath...

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    @8. ResCyn "Oh look, another country with more common sense than us! Why oh why oh why are we simply not allowed this conversation here?"

    Two words "Daily" and "Mail".

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    'I lost relatives to drug abuse which is why I campaign to educate people about the dangers and misconceptions spread by the vile pro-skunk lobby.'
    Maybe you should educate urself then as ur knowledge is shockingly bad. Nobody would bring in anybody to lecture about drugs who is full of the bile you are, it's normally recovered addicts who give a balanced account of all aspects


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