The State Will Sell Marijuana to Registered Consumers

English Translation

The Uruguayan government announced today a package with 16 measures to combat public insecurity under the premise “war on coca paste”, to which they attribute a large part of the crimes committed, especially by minors. In this sense, President Jose Mujica worked on a legal project which would place marijuana selling in the hands of the state as a way to “whitewash” the drug market, taking away an important profit margin from the drug traffickers and in order to “channel” those addicted to cocaine paste into a softer drug.

The consumption and possession for personal use of marijuana are not criminalized in Uruguay. Parliamentary sources told El Pais that the project from the Executive aims at consumption and possession to be regulated by the state.

The state will be responsible for selling marijuana in authorized locations, which will have a register of consumers to prevent addictive behavior. “This is not like cigarettes. The sale will not be free, it will be regulated by the state and it will be prohibited for persons under 18 years,” said the source. The quality of the drug will be certified by the state and a maximum number of joints will be allowed per consumer; those that exceed it will have to undergo rehabilitation treatment.

Furthermore, the price of each joint will be set by the state and will include taxes which will be used to finance treatment for the rehabilitation of addicts. The parliamentary sources interviewed by El Pais said that in the countries that have legalized marijuana consumption with state regulation, the consumption of hard drugs has fallen. “The world is moving in this direction, there is a debate all over the world on liberalization as a way of combatting organized crime, which is winning the so-called ‘war on drugs’; many cartels have shown that they are more powerful than the states themselves”, said the source. The source also added that the package of measures announced today is “comprehensive” because taken separately, the projects “do not provide a full picture of what is intended.”

Another one of the measures provides for the involuntary admission of addicts of coca paste. The sources said that they will be “health interventions” aimed at rehabilitation. Today, with the signatures of two psychiatrists it is possible to admit a person who is not in the condition to make to so themselves or who might attack others or themself.

The project to be submitted to parliament suggests that multidisciplinary teams composed of staff from the ministries of Public Health and Social Development monitor zones to detect addicted minors that require treatment. The INAU and the National Drug Committee are planning the creation of two centers – one in Las Brujas and another in San Jose – for the treatment of youth addicts between 16 and 24. These centers will be managed through partnerships with non-governmental organizations.

Involuntary admission is criticized by the Broad Front and the National Drug Committee itself, which say that it runs counter to the policies of rehabilitation and harm reduction that have been followed for six years.

Sources from the coalition told El Pais that “they have not yet agreed to the involuntary admission of minors addicted to coca paste” due to differences in focus within the Broad Front.

The socialist deputy, Yerú Pardiñas, told El Pais that for involuntary admission they require norms that also rehabilitate them. In the same sense he added: “creating an adequate framework with guarantees of respect for the people is necessary but we must study the limits because it is a delicate terrain.”

The announcements that the government will make will include norms to ensure the right to protection for minors, prohibiting or limiting the transmission of images of robberies or other crimes captured on security cameras that could be violent as well as the toughening of penalties for adolescent offenders and the creation of new offenses linked to drug trafficking and the sale of coca paste.

These measures were passed by members of the security cabinet to the new president of the Broad Front, Monica Xavier, and to the deputies of the coalition in a meeting on Monday, parliamentary sources told El Pais.

Within the package of measures, the minister of the interior proposed to Mujica the attention to families of victims of crimes through economic compensation from a fund derived by the work of the prisoners. They will also be offered psychiatric attention.

It will also encourage patrols and operations in areas of Montevideo through information that shows were and when crimes occur. The 400 new police in the capital will be distributed within six months.

The project to liberalize the sale of marijuana has been accepted within the Broad Front. Senator Luis Galla (Assembly Uruguay) told El Pais that he agrees with the general idea of marijuana legalization.

Gallo said that this project from the Executive should be analyzed within the framework of the Special Commission on Addictions, which is studying an initiative from the Broad Front that allows the cultivation of up to eight marijuana plants.

In addition, deputy Alvaro Vega (MPP) told El Pais that “we must try the road of legalization to see what happens because if someone wants to take drugs it is difficult to convince him or her to not do it and repression does not achieve anything”. He said that that allowing the consumption of marijuana could decrease the consumption of cocaine.

The president of the republic, Jose Mujica, acknowledged that the state must ensure public security but warned that this “cannot” enter the minds and hearts of the citizens.

In a radio and television show on the birthday of Jose Gervasio Artigas, Mujica said that, for a month, the Uruguayans have been reflecting about life in the framework of a wave of deaths generated by the increase in insecurity, traffic accidents, and domestic violence. “For this reason, as an expression of live, it is right to raise the issue of human existence”, he said.

“It seems that in such a special time where we are a bit richer it is maybe due to the abundance in material and everyday life that we have forgotten that the central value is the defense of life”, he said.

He said that the Uruguayans are suffering “a crisis of coexistence” and he referred to the injuries of the past. “Maybe we are paying the price for some old fracture in our society” he said.

He announced that within this week, they will announce measures on public security and said that he did not want to elaborate on them. He added that some of the measures will have to be decided on by the parliament and for others, society will be called upon to think about such as the issues of drug consumption and interpersonal violence.

“We have to ask ourselves what is happening, why there is so much violence, why it is so difficult to learn to coexist”, Mujica expressed.

View the article in Spanish.

El Pais, Uruguay
Drug Trafficking in Latin America