Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Proposal


Key Points of Marijuana Legalization Proposal

  • The intention of the proposal is to regulate the cannabis market in order to reduce the risks faced by marijuana users – which constitute the major of drug users in Uruguay – when they turn to illegal markets to obtain marijuana. This connects them with criminal organizations and individuals who additionally offer access to higher-risk drugs, such as coca paste. The aim is to separate the two markets.
  • The UN Single Convention is “inefficient, ineffective and contradictory” and it must be “revised, modified and improved.”  
  • The Global Commission report is quoted: “the war against drugs has failed”. The war on drugs has increased the drug market, along with a whole host of associated problems.
  • Now is the time for a revision of drug policies with an open debate and bold leadership.
  • Uruguay will not stop its efforts to decrease drug consumption if the proposal is passed.
  • The war on drugs has failed on four accounts:
    • The drug market has been estimated to be the second biggest global business after petrol;
    • Trafficking has had negative consequences on economies globally;
    • Drug trafficking has been linked to other illicit activities such as trafficking in arms, people, gold, and diamonds and has led to high levels of corruption; and
    • In many countries, the state has been overrun, society destabilized, and democracy destroyed.
  • “In sum: the 'remedy' has proven much worse than the 'disease.'”
  • The national drug strategy was drawn up by the Junta Nacional de Drogas for 2011-2015 and is grounded in human rights, equality, democracy, cooperation, comprehensiveness, participation, and scientific evidence.
  • Various countries have experimented with reform models such as Holland, Australia (decriminalization), Spain (social clubs), and the U.S. (medical marijuana).
  • It is important to highlight the findings of the Uruguayan Comision de Adicciones de la Camara de Representantes (Commission on Addictions in the House of Representatives) that concluded that putting in place the conditions for access to marijuana is crucial to reduce the harms produced by the illegality of the substance.
  • Marijuana is far less risky than other drugs, such as coca paste, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs.
  • The proposed law is aimed at:
    • Separating the drug markets so that there is less access to coca paste for marijuana users;
    • Decreasing the stigma surrounding marijuana use; increasing education so users are well-informed; and keeping marijuana users included socially instead of criminalized;
    • Increasing attention and care for problem drug users (paid for by marijuana taxes); and
    • Fighting drug trafficking.


Without damaging Law No. 14.292 of October 31, 1974 and its modifications, the state 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, under the terms and conditions set by the regulation.

Similarly, the state will exercise all other material activities that prove necessary for the execution of the activities referred to in the previous subsection, under the terms and conditions set by the regulation.

The activities referred to in the previous subsections must be exclusively realized in the framework of a harm reduction policy, which also alerts the population about the consequences and the damaging effects of marijuana consumption, as well as the effects of risk- and harm-reduction for potential consumers, under the conditions set by the regulation.

Link to the full proposal (in Spanish).

Summary and translation provided by Hannah Hetzer, DPA Latin America Project Coordinator
Drug Trafficking in Latin America