Mujica Halts His Own Plan to Legalize Marijuana in Uruguay

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December 19, 2012
BBC Mundo

English Translation

The marijuana legalization project in Uruguay took a big hit.

The Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica, said on Tuesday that he asked legislators from his party to “halt” the process to legalize the sale and buying of marijuana and which would make the state the sole manager of the drug.

In statements to Canal 10 television in Uruguay, Mujica affirmed his wish to soften the development of this project until the population understands the intent of the measure.

The 77 year old president made these statements after a poll that highlighted that 64% of Uruguayans are against the project, including 53% of the voters of the Frente Amplio.

“Don’t vote a law for me because you have a majority in Parliament. The majority has to be in the street and the people have to understand that with shootings and putting people in prison we are giving a gift to drug traffickers,” said Mujica.

The president wants to deepen the public debate on marijuana legalization and demonstrated confidence that in the end the Uruguayan population will “understand that we are in a war and that this is an artillery that doesn’t spare anyone.”

“I am interested in what the people think and maybe suddenly the people will have better solutions than that proposed,” he said.

According to the poll by the company Cifra, more than 6 out of 10 Uruguayans (64%) oppose marijuana legalization and 26% are in favor of the project.

The low level of acceptance of the project does not only come from Mujica’s own followers.

The rejection from the voters of the Frente Amplio reaches 53% and the numbers are much higher in the opposition parties. 83% of the Party National and 82% of the Partido Colorado are against the project.

According to Secretary of the Presidency of Uruguay, Alberto Breccia, Mujica had said on Monday that if they did not achieve 60% approval, the issue would go "to the deck."

In a recent interview with BBC Mundo, the Uruguayan president defended the proposal because he considers that legalizing marijuana would put an end to the black market.

“What scares me is drug trafficking, not drugs”, he said.

In his statements on Tuesday, Mujica recalled that at the time when the US created the Dry Law – which “raised a ruckus” – in Uruguay, the state created a monopoly on alcohol “which sold alcohol to drink” and which “guaranteed that people did not drink wood alcohol, which is a cheaper way of poisoning people.”

“And from there, we were able to finance health. It did not occur to anyone to say that people should not drink because they knew that they would drink anyway,” he said.

The Uruguayan government introduced the initiative to legalize marijuana as part of a plan to combat the drug trafficking market by preventing marijuana users from having to buy their marijuana from people who dealt more harmful drugs.

From the moment he introduced the initiative last June, Mujica was showed willingness to follow popular surveys to know the views of Uruguayans and was willing to reject it if it was rejected by a majority.

View the article in Spanish.

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