Uruguay becomes first nation to legalise marijuana trade


The Uruguayan government hopes legalising the sale of marijuana will tackle drug cartels

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Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.

After nearly 12 hours of debate, senators gave the government-sponsored bill their historic final approval.

The law allowing registered Uruguayans over 18 to buy up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug a month is not expected to come into force before April.

The government hopes it will help tackle drug cartels, but critics say it will expose more people to drugs.

At the scene

This was a huge victory for the cannabis-smoking community in Uruguay.

Hundreds of young people gathered outside Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote on a giant screen. Many shared a joint of marijuana with their friends. They partied amid reggae music and some waved marijuana leaves.

There was an atmosphere of celebration inside the Senate too, with dozens of supporters of President Mujica following the nearly 14 hours of the debate from the spectators' gallery.

But not everyone was happy about this law. Senator Pedro Bordaberry of the conservative Red Party told the BBC his country should not become a "guinea pig for Mr Mujica's experiment".

He said: "We used to be known for our excellent meat and football, now the world is watching us because of our marijuana."

Dozens of supporters of the bill proposed by the left-wing President Jose Mujica gathered outside the Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote.

Presenting the bill to fellow senators, Roberto Conde said it was an unavoidable response to reality, given that the "war" against drugs had failed.

"We have the duty as the state to give a specific answer to an open territory, small and non-producing," Mr Conde said, adding that Uruguay's borders were used by cartels to smuggle drugs into neighbouring countries.

But many senators also spoke out against the bill, before it was passed by 16 votes to 13 on Tuesday.

The opposition member Alfredo Solari said Uruguay should not "experiment" on its people.

"This project envisages a social engineering experiment and respects none of the ethic safeguards of experimentation on human beings, and these are important in the case of a substance like marijuana, which causes damage to human beings," Senator Solari told Reuters news agency.

Debate continues

The project had already been approved by Uruguay's lower house in July.

It had also drawn international criticism. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned the law would "be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug treaties to which Uruguay is party".

The INCB is an independent body of experts established by the United Nations to monitor countries' compliance with international drug treaties.

A Uruguayan woman on the government's plans: "This president is doing what needs to be done"

The historic approval comes amid growing debate over drug legalisation in Latin America.

A group of former presidents and influential social figures, including Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Colombian ex-leader Cesar Gaviria, have called for marijuana to be legalised and regulated.

But President Mujica recently asked during an interview why the former leaders only spoke out about the legalisation of marijuana after they had left office.

In July, without naming Uruguay directly, Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to Brazil.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    I see that the BBC have now removed this article from it's main pages in favour of the INCB (who I have not elected or chosen to represent my views) article declaring it "illegal" !!!!!

    I can only reach the conclusion that there are 'vested interests' at work here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I think legalizing it is good but we have to look at why now? Proposition 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Prop 19 is doing nothing less then opening the floodgates for Monsanto and other petro-chemical, GMO seed and pharmaceutical corporations to commercialize, regulate, control and tax Cannabis through genetic engineering, patenting and licensing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Doesn't the President of Uruguay say the chemicals in the chicken feed are causing homosexuals in his country too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    We should be leading the world by example but we are always trailing at the back.Prohibition has never worked it has been tried and it has failed over and over again.Good luck Uruguay and well done on your sensible approach to something that really should never have been illegal ANYWHERE in the world in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Would you prefer the money spent on drugs to go to some warlord/cartel or be taxed and go to the government, where it can be spent on more beneficial things than AK47's for the Warlord's Conscripts to use?
    And Cannabis is not injected-that's heroin/LSD. Cannabis is smoked, and if you had ANY idea what you were talking about you'd know that.


Comments 5 of 234


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