MONTEVIDEO, Aug 2 – Uruguay’s lower house of National Congress on Wednesday approved a plan to create a legal marijuana market after over 13 hours of debate.
Uruguay could be the first country in the world to license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and sale for adult consumers if the plan get permission later from the Senate.
Fifty of the 96 lawmakers present at the debate said putting the government at the centRre of a legal marijuana industry is worth trying because the global war on drugs had been a costly and bloody failure, and displacing illegal dealers through licensed pot sales could save money and lives.
“Uruguay’s bold move does more than follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington. It provides a model for legally regulating marijuana that other countries, and US states, will want to consider – and a precedent that will embolden others to follow in their footsteps,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the US Drug Policy Alliance.
Critics, however, warned that marijuana is a gateway drug and said fostering the bad habits of addicts is playing with fire.
The government was underestimating the risk of marijuana, National Party Deputy Gerardo Amarilla said, and he called marijuana a “gateway drug” for other chemical addictions that foster violent crimes.
Marijuana legalisation efforts have gained momentum across the Americas in recent years as leaders watch the death toll rise from military responses to unabated drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America.
A recent report by a commission of the Organisation of American States encouraged new approaches, including legalisation of marijuana.
Under the legislation, Uruguay’s government would license growers, seller and consumers, and update a confidential registry to avoid people from buying more than 40 grammes a month.
Carrying, growing or selling pot without a licence could bring prison terms, while licensed consumers could grow up to six plants at a time at home.