Uruguay’s plans to create legal marijuana market wins first step in Congress
Uruguay’s plan to create a legal market for marijuana won its first critical step in the lower house of congress on Wednesday.
After 13 hours of debate, all 50 members of the ruling Broad Front coalition approved the proposal in a party line vote with a 50-49 majority.
The measure now goes to the senate and, if it is passed, Uruguay would be the first country in the world to licence and regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.
It is legal to use the drug in Uruguay but it is against the law to sell, buy, produce or possess a marijuana plant. After the new legislation is passed, Uruguay’s government would licence growers, sellers and consumers and update a confidential registry to keep people from buying more than 40 grams a month. Also, licensed consumers would be able to grow up to six plants at a time at home.
The Uruguayan government would encourage growing clubs with 45 members each and plans to drive out unlicensed dealers from the country and draw a line between pot smokers and users of harder drugs.
Under the new proposals an Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis would be created to grant licences for all aspects of a legal industry to produce marijuana for recreational, medicinal and industrial use.
Yesterday’s approval has received mixed reactions from across the country. Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica had postponed voting for six months in order to provide supporters more time to rally public opinion.
However, figures after the recent polls in the country show that two thirds of Uruguayans opposed the proposals in spite of a “responsible regulation campaign for the bill”.
Commenting on yesterday’s proposals, the national party deputy Gerardo Amarilla said: “I believe that we are risking too much and playing with fire. 98% of those who are today destroying themselves with base cocaine began with marijuana,” which he called a “gateway drug that fosters violent crimes”.