Montevideo- -- The Uruguayan government will sell 40 grams of marijuana a month for around $35 to each of the consumers officially registered, if the bill is approved which puts the production and sale into the hands of the state, said official sources today.
The director of the National Drug Board, Julio Calzada, told Radio Carve that the price will be the same as the price of marijuana currently in the black market and the drugs that the Uruguayan state will produce and sell will “have strict quality control”.
The aim is to “avoid misuse and the drugs being in the wrong hands”, said Calzada.
In order to be able to buy 40 grams – which make up around twenty joints – the consumers will have to officially apply to receive a card with a bar code.
For the process, they will have to present their IDs as well as information such as place of residence, occupation, and marital status.
Last August, the government presented parliament with a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana with the aim of combatting drug trafficking.
President Jose Mujica of the leftist Broad Front explained that if his initiative is approved, the country will plant around 150 hectares of cannabis to satisfy the demand of the consumers.
The Broad Front has a majority in both houses, which would ensure the approval of the bill, but they are still negotiating with the opposition and are taking some of their ideas so that the final project will have votes from legislators of all parties.
Socialist representative Julio Bango, one of the authors of the bill, said that the government hopes that the bill will be approved by parliament (representatives and senators) before the end of the year.
“We have been following the criminal justice and police path for 50 years and we are failing (to combat drug trafficking)”, said the president when he presented the initiative.
Mujica announced his intention to undertake official surveys on the issue and promised that if the population rejects this issue, he will suspend it.
Private surveys undertaken before Mujica’s announcement indicated that 60 percent of Uruguayans are against legalizing the production and sale of marijuana.
Two weeks ago, two Paraguayans and two Uruguayans were detained and jailed for “drug trafficking” for bringing 639 kilos of marijuana into the country from Paraguay.
One month ago, former president Tabare Vazquez (2005-2010) – also of the Broad Front and considered the ideal candidate by analysts for the next elections in 2014 – expressed his doubts about the current government’s plan to legalize marijuana.
Vazquez, who is an oncologist by profession, said that the consumption of marijuana is “equal or worse” in terms of harms than tobacco and he reminded that the countries that legalized are rethinking the situation.
“Marijuana should not be consumed, plain and simple, it should not be consumed”, Vazquez said. During his administration, he began a fierce anti-tobacco campaign which resulted in a lawsuit against Uruguay from Philip Morris, still ongoing today.