By: Amanda Froelich,
Becoming the first country to pass such a bill, on July 31st, 2013 Uruguay’s lower house approved a marijuana legalization bill. This act will bring the South American country one step closer to legally regulating the production and distribution of the medicinal drug.
All 50 members of the Broad Front coalition approved the proposal in a party line vote just before midnight after a heated 13 hour debate; a narrow majority of the 96 lawmakers were present throughout the entire engagement.
Support comes from the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, backing the bill in effort to deal with with the rise in illegal drug trade and trafficking which has plagued the region. If passed, marijuana would be sold in pharmacies and a registry would be created of those who buy it; only 18 year-old’s and older would be allowed to purchase the drug.
Mujica summarizes his impression of why legalizing it is of necessity: “If we legalize it, we think that we will spoil the market (for drug traffickers) because we are going to sell it for cheaper than it is sold on the black market,” he said. “And we are going to have people identified.”
Other supporters of the measure include the Broad Front coalition which approve its passing for similar reasons, saying it will fight drug trafficking and marks a turning point which could influence other Latin American countries to do the same. Lisa Sanchez, director for Latin America of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, believes that the passing of the bill is a positive act. “This implies the materialism of a new paradigm in terms of drug policies. [Establishing] effective state controls on the production, processing, distribution, storage, and sales of marijuana, abandoning the prohibit ism and the punitive strategies [is] a turning point.”
Now at the forefront of globally reforming the ever costly and perpetually failing archaic drug policies, if the bill succeeds, Uruguay will become the first nation to allow its citizens to legally grow and consume marijuana for non-medical purposes.
The originally proposed bill held that the plant should be solely produced by the state. However, the version approved enables the government to establish an institution which will grant licenses to grow; therefore private growers would be sold only through pharmacies registered to sell.
The government will control every chain of production, with quality and price control from the grower to the pharmacy. If approved by the Senate in a few months, the law will then go into force. With a government majority in the upper house, the bill is expected to pass, making history in this small South American country.
Following in the positive direction of states such as Washington and Colorado which have legalized the drug in effort to reform the failing stance and policies on drug use, the legalization would save billions of dollars poured into the ‘war on drugs’. Efficient regulation could also stimulate the economy and provide a range of medicinal benefits, therefore it’s a common opinion that he legalization is in the best interest of the people and individual liberty rights.