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 860.

    Morrocan, Leb, super skunk, oil, black, green, home grown, & dozens of other types & names of dope, bongs, pipes,hot knives, wood chilums, carrot chilums, spliffs, been there done it & I know loads of people who used to smoke & still do smoke puff.

    It is my experience of many years & of many people who smoke dope that I believe the LOGICAL & MORAL choice is to NOT EVER legalise it

  • rate this

    Comment number 859.

    Didn't think it would be too long till the US nations got involved to criticise and say their breaking international law, sorry I mean UN nations

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    But thats my point of legalising canabis. You regulate the damaging aspects like super skunk and control the contents. You control the strength. We wouldn't expect to buy alcohol laced with ethanol legally, likewise we wouldn't expect to buy super strength canabis which screws up your mind

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    watch Refer Madness that is all the evidence i need to support marijuana, if a government can put that much time and effort into lying they are clearly not prohibiting it for the right reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    Brilliant. So good to see that many authorities worldwide are considering this a viable option. Can't imagine David Cameron or any of his crew being this forward thinking though. Still, you never know.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.


    Whilst it's no doubt true that anything that has been combusted may present a risk of carcinogenic materials, the latest studies are unable to find any significant link between low to moderate Cannabis use and the incidence of cancer.


    Hard to believe, I know, but this is what we employ scientists for I guess!

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    Last thing im going to say to you Sally
    I dont get how you can be a counselor when you don't know anything about cannabis !
    What is skunk? Unfortunately for some smokers ‘skunk’ has simply become another generic word for cannabis, but true Skunk is a quite independent strain with its origins dating back to the 1970’s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    Anyone ever seen a stoner fighting outside a nightclub, smashing up bus shelters, or vomiting in the street?

    Thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.


    Its definetly stronger now sorry.The amount of hybrid and crossed bred to death plants in the uk that they wouldnt even sell to the public in the dam shows it.

    20 years ago it was mostly orange bud and similar kicking about,now we have some real head messing gear which isnt necesarily stronger high wise but side effect wise.Its the reason the drugs bad rep continues i feel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    847. SallyPlanetZog
    Typical pro-cannabis lobby who sneeringly dismiss out of hand any view that differs from their own. For that reason alone it should be banned.

    Most people on here are basing their views on facts and experience. It's glaringly obvious that you are basing yours on what you have read in the tabloids.

    People aren't seeing your view because it's factually wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    Are your truly that insular? What am I saying! Of course you are. Your arguments have been torn to shreds time and time again today and yet you're still unable to see it. How very sad I feel for you. You're completely and utterly ignorant of the facts of this debate and everybody here knows it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    'Typical pro-cannabis lobby who sneeringly dismiss out of hand any view that differs from their own.'
    You mean in the same way that you have been doing with ur anti bud arguments, which have been totally vacuous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.


    We have a society which is addicted to addiction. It is caused by bleating bum wipers. It is tied to Benefit addiction if only you can get some addiction, then the door is open for all embracing nanny's to embrace you to death. that's life blood of the nanny's ! However its hard to stomach for they who know the game bleat on Nanny's bleat on

  • Comment number 847.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    I've never met anyone who has actually ever smoked this 'super strong skunk', what's actually available is mid quality early harvested generic stuff which is no different to 20 years ago. Oh and before you quote that study by the independent bear in mind they compared the strongest now to the weakest then - the same data could also have been used to show no change or a reduction in strength.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.


    What utter nonsense. Are you for real?

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    @842 Soundchaser - " You live a sheltered life. And you don't seem to care about those around you. You assume addicts have a choice which means you don't understand addiction."

    Cannabis is minimally addictive.
    The vast majority do not get into trouble with it and its illegal status does nothing to help those people who do, and prevents them seeking or getting help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    Sally and Garston, (Married?if not you should be)

    I will stand up for the right of people to do what they want, and not be bullied into a corner by "drug" experts who knows zilch.

    Legal alcohol has killed thousands upon thousands in the UK alone and damaged the health of many.

    Cannabis causes a sweetie craving apparently. Or crisp fetish - whatever.

    400 characters is quite sufficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    @824 You live a sheltered life. And you don't seem to care about those around you. You assume addicts have a choice which means you don't understand addiction. So, as long as it doesn't affect you, you don't really care about the consequences for others. That about sums up modern society today. Very sad.

  • Comment number 841.

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


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