Press Release  | 08/10/2012

President of Uruguay's Marijuana Legalization Proposal Sent to Parliament: Law Would Make Uruguay First Government in World to Legally Supply Marijuana

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Ethan Nadelmann Statement: Bold Move by Uruguay Part of Growing Trend in Latin America

On Wednesday, the president of Uruguay submitted a proposal to Parliament to legalize marijuana under government-controlled regulation and sale, making it the first country in the world where the state would sell marijuana directly to its citizens. The proposal signed by Uruguayan President José Mujica is part of a package of measures aimed at fighting crime and requires parliamentary approval before being enacted.

Despite Uruguay being one of the safest countries in Latin America, it has faced an increase in crime from drug gangs due to its position on a drug transit route to Europe via West Africa. The aim of the measure is to combat the rising insecurity in Uruguay by removing the profits of marijuana sales from drug gangs, separating the marijuana market from those for other illegal drugs, and avoiding marijuana users’ exposure to drug dealers who also sell coca paste and cocaine. Additionally, the revenues from marijuana sales will be invested into treatment for problem drug users.

The single article of the proposal states that the government "will assume the control and the regulation of the activities of importation, production, acquisition of any title, storage, marketing, and distribution of marijuana and its derivatives" and that these activities "must be exclusively realized in the framework of a harm reduction policy."

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance:

"With this bold proposal, President Mujica is taking a key leadership role in the drug policy reform debate. He has joined the increasing calls for an end to the war on drugs from Latin American leaders – including presidents Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Otto Perez Molina (Guatemala), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), and Rafael Correa (Ecuador) – and he has taken it one step further by proposing a concrete policy alternative.

Successful models of marijuana reform can already be found in various countries, such as Portugal’s decriminalization, the Netherland’s cannabis coffee shops, Spain’s social clubs, and the U.S.’s medical marijuana dispensaries. In addition, three U.S. states – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – will be voting on marijuana legalization this November. Marijuana decriminalization bills are currently being debated in Chile, Brazil, and Belize. Evidently, marijuana reform measures are on the rise worldwide.

After national alcohol Prohibition was repealed in the United States, differing state-level alcohol policies were enacted, from privatized sale with minimal regulation to state monopolies. Similarly, there is no one optimal marijuana model. Uruguay needs to find the model that works best for Uruguay."

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240

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