Excerpts from President José Mujica’s Interview with La Tercera on Marijuana Legalization
In December, you halted your own proposal [marijuana legalization] because the population “is still not ready.” Should the Executive govern based on surveys?
“The bill is in parliament. We are now in recess and will restart the discussion in March. In the past month, many laws were voted on and I do not want this to be voted on in the jumble of the laws on abortion and gay marriage. I want there to be a big discussion and then for them to vote. The problem is not marijuana nor drug addiction, the problem is drug trafficking. In Uruguay, one out of three prisoners is serving time for issues related to drugs and this is rotting all of society.”
Mujica says that in Latin America, “the repressive path that we have been taking for 50 years is failing.” And he explains of his bill: “We have to fight to gain the market from drug trafficking. Therefore, if we legalize, we regulate. If you are a consumer, you identify yourself and I – the state – sell it to you. But if something is happening to you, I say “come here, I will treat you.” I think that is much better than what we are doing today.”
But why should Uruguay take the lead if it is not the country with the biggest problems in the region?
“Someone has to start revealing the taboos with regards to marijuana in Latin America. There are so many taboos to break. Uruguay, because it is a small country, can do it. Maybe I am wrong about this but if I am, give me another solution because prohibitionist policy failed and we have been repressing for 50 years and look at how Mexico is. The repressive apparatuses want to justify their work and think that if the state takes over the market it will be a disaster. But the only disaster is that they will lose their jobs.”
Is this not a measure that South America should jointly take and isn’t it complicated that countries take it individually?
“Uruguay can do it because information technology helps us. But we will not start exporting or tourism so that Chileans come to consume drugs, no.