Drug dealers selling marijuana in Uruguay may soon have some new competition: the government. Uruguay's government said Wednesday it hopes to sell marijuana to citizens, making it the first country in the world to do so.
"We want to fight against two different things: one is drug consumption and the other is drug trafficking," said Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro, at a news conference, according to Reuters. "We think the ban on certain drugs is creating more problems in society than the drug itself."
That's why left-leaning President José “Pepe” Mujica's administration will send a bill to Congress shortly to propose a measure to legalize marijuana sales as a crime-fighting measure, the local press reports.
Only the government could sell marijuana, in the form of cigarettes, and only to adult registered users, says Fox news.
Uruguay's proposal to join the marijuana market is one of 15 crime-fighting measures that include tougher penalties for police corruption, crack-cocaine trafficking and juvenile offenders in the South American country,Reuters reports.
There are no laws against marijuana use itself in Uruguay.
“The world is moving this way,” an unnamed government source told Uruguayan daily El País, according to Fox news. “The debate is moving toward liberalization as a way to fight organized crime.
Here's how it would work: Uruguayan newspaper reports that Uruguayan pot smokers who exceed a limited number of permitted marijuana cigarettes would have to undergo drug rehabilitation go to rehabilitating addicts, the AP says.
Fox reports that the state would take responsibility for quality control under the plan and that money from taxes on the cigarettes would fund rehabilitation programs, an unnamed government source told Uruguayan daily El País.
Marijuana smokers celebrate
Uruguayan marijuana smokers gave the possibility of government-sold joints two thumbs up.
“This will help to separate markets,” said Juan Vaz of the Movement to Liberate Cannabis, according to El País. “The way things are now, if someone wants to buy marijuana, they have to go to a place where other drugs are sold. These are places where people are committing crimes, and working with drug traffickers.”
Some in the U.S couldn't agree more. "At least SOMEONE is moving in the right direction," said Huffington Post user hextone.
Nervous about having to register as a pot user? Huffington Post user offred writes: "If it's legal, registering is no big deal. In Minnesota, every time I buy Sudafed, I have to sign my name at the drugstore. It's obvious from the amount I buy every six months that I'm not using it to produce meth."
Curtis Gregory Perry
This is in response to occasional Uruguayan pot smokers like Natalia Pereira who has their doubts about government sold doobies.
"People who consume are not going to buy it from the state," said Pereira, 28, Bloomberg reports. "They're going to be mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you."
"Out of all the drugs that are used for psychoactive effect, this is the least toxic, and the least potential for harm," said Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, according to Bloomberg.
"It may take some time to find a regulatory system that everyone can be comfortable with," Grinspoon added of Uruguay's proposed sale of the drug.
Ruling party Sen. Monica Xavier tells local TV that if the measure passes, it should be accompanied by efforts to get people off drugs.
Rehabilitation centers didn't seem too impressed.
“This is putting out a fire with gasoline,” Pablo Rossi, the director of a Manantiales Foundation, a rehab center, told Uruguayan daily El País, according to Fox.
Boo to war on drugs
In recent years, some Latin American countries have turned against the U.S.-led so called war on drugs started by the Richard Nixon administration four decades ago.
White House Photo Office
Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States. In office: January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
Overburdened by clogged prisons, Latin American leaders are instead calling for the hemisphere-wide decriminalization of soft drugs and an increased focus on public health rather than eradication.
This move also comes at a time when President Mujica's popularity has taken a beaten due to recent gang shootouts and rising cocaine seizures have raised security concerns in Uruguay, one the safest countries in Latin America.
The Interior Ministry says from January to May, the number of homicides jumped to 133 from 76 in the same period last year