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
    +1

    Comment number 960.

    Ironically, the people who are so anti-marijuana are the very people who need to take a little toke now and again.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 959.

    733.teddyinjapan
    8 Hours ago
    718. CURTAINS 2012

    see SallyPlanetZog

    CURTAINS 2012 you are the reason that Uruguay Colorado and Washington are legalizing . .

    +++

    Your belief that I have done all that really demonstrates how cannabis expands the mind. LOL

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 958.

    757.Ernie
    7 Hours ago
    @744 CURTAINS 2012

    I have no way of evaluating if your story about your boss's daughter is true, and what's more it doesn't matter if it is.


    +++

    Demonstrably you don't care about her health, but the reason for her degradation matters a lot as it shows up the myth pedalled by the pot pushers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 957.

    @ Iain 948

    I know you already know the answer but it is money and big money at that. Thats all that matters in our society, such a sad reality.

  • Comment number 956.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 955.

    643.Izzysmart
    I don't use alcohol Very very bad drug. 100 times worse than pot.

    +++

    I'll take my 30g of ethanol, you take your 3kg of cannabis in the same evening and we'll see who is better afterwards.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 954.

    :) Would you do a poll around the BBC news office. Just a hands up to answer, no names taken off the record poll.

    Ask the staff; How many of you have smoked weed?

    Can you then publish the results. The answer will be interesting and funny. You might all decide that Uruguay would be better to live and work in than Salford, the ease of buying weed is probably about the same, just illegal.

  • Comment number 953.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 952.

    How very grown-up and brave of them! Not bad for politicians.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 951.

    I lied, one last comment. For a behind the scenes look at the Canadian and Dutch growers & coffeshops check out UrbanRemo's channel on Youtube Lot's of info and stuff to see if you're interested in the discussion topic & a wide range of people on show - from your stereotypical backwoods hippies to the bigwigs in the industry and trade shows. I'll admit in advanced it's obviously somewhat biased.

  • Comment number 950.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 949.

    @947. ResCyn
    @944.JohnBA
    Residents only I'm afraid & could still be blocked cos the UN have had a fit.

    Did I say holiday? I meant emigrate to Uruguay, pay tax in Uruguay, maybe even get a job in the police there and all the other thinks I could be doing here if it weren't for that one silly law. Also America has shown you can pick and choose with the UN, so they don't matter in this. LOL

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 948.

    Each year 5,000 to 10,000 people die prematurely from alcohol abuse.
    Half of all violent crimes are alcohol related.
    1/3 of domestic violent incidents are linked to alcohol misuse.
    So, my question is this. Why do we accept alcohol as being acceptable to produce and sell yet support the production of marijuana and you're looked upon as some kind of lunatic. Time to wake up Britain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 947.

    944.JohnBA
    Residents only I'm afraid & could still be blocked cos the UN have had a fit.

    942.USAperson
    I get you man I really do, But like alcohol, maybe the kid shouldn't have been stoned at work?

    I'll finish with this one for the super-skunk is lethal brigade (sources for the humourless version):
    http://voices.yahoo.com/how-marijuana-kill-why-cannabis-overdose-1576393.html?cat=71

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 946.

    @939. annieavata I do not like being around drunks, smokers, drunks, and druggies (legal or illegal). Worked at a company with a teen who was a daily user of marijuana - he started forgetting steps in setting up or shutting down his machine and was a danger on the shop floor until he broke is arm after not shutting of the machine before cleaning it
    -
    Sure he wasn't just stupid? It is possibility

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 945.

    942.USAperson
    Neither do I as I don't do weed,drink or smoke.
    Worked with an habitual drinker who came in to work with a hangover - hell to work with.
    And also so glad that they stopped smoking in the workplace - saved many a worker from secondary cancer.

    But the argument is that cannabis is as harmless as the above mentioned.

    It is and therefore needs to be decriminalised
    Good night.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 944.

    :) Think a nice holiday to Uruguay is in order.

    See Mr Cameron, the silly laws you refuse to even talk about maybe changing slightly, they are already driving people away from staying in the UK for a holiday, now there is one more destination for the weed tourists tour, and UK gets none of the profit (that word you love so much).

    :) So think about that Mr Cameron while I relax in Uruguay.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 943.

    As a recreational smoker, I would love to see it legalised purely for the social aspect. Amsterdam's coffee shops are a great environment and to have something here would be great. However, with a government that wants to outlaw porn... I won't hold my breath. If it remains illegal so be it, I can still get it whenever I want, wherever I want. Plus, the price will skyrocket if legalised.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 942.

    939. annieavata I do not like being around drunks, smokers, drunks, and druggies (legal or illegal). Worked at a company with a teen who was a daily user of marijuana - he started forgetting steps in setting up or shutting down his machine and was a danger on the shop floor until he broke is arm after not shutting of the machine before cleaning it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 941.

    Can we please stop this now - everyone has run out of steam - Sally's gone to bed because she has to be up at 7 for a run, I need a large glass of wine and some crisps and the argument has been won, by sheer bloody mindedness by the pro cannabis lobby.

    Cheers guys.

 

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