Uruguay’s unique approach to marijuana
Earlier this year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to approve a new law that legalizes marijuana throughout the country. The government created the Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis in order to allow the state to have full control over the legal production, sale and consumption of the drug, as well as the capability of regulating the market of marijuana.
This trend of decriminalizing marijuana can be seen in some other places around the world. In the Netherlands, for instance, coffee shops are allowed to sell it, and along with Israel and Canada, they have also created legal programs for the prescription of medical cannabis to assist in the relief of certain health issues, especially those that result in chronic pain.
In Portugal, the decriminalization has reduced drug violence without increasing the use of the drug. However, Uruguay is the first country to see the full legalization of marijuana as a possible solution to destroying a market that is more destructive to society than the drug being sold.
The Uruguayan government has advised foreigners against travelling to the country with the purpose of buying marijuana. Moreover, the new regulation does not give foreigners the right to smoke or buy the drug, and only citizens over the age of 18 will be allowed to obtain a license from the IRCCA, which will allow the institute to keep track of every gram sold and determine whether illegal marijuana continues to be marketed.
In addition, the IRCCA has stipulated that license holders may only grow six plants of marijuana in their homes, producing a total of 480 grams a year, with a maximum of 40 grams per month. The 40 grams per month limit is also applicable to licensed citizens purchasing their marijuana from over the counter licensed pharmacies.
Licensed citizens will also be allowed to form “cannabis clubs,” in order to grow marijuana cooperatively. Each club is allowed a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 45 members and is allowed to plant up to 99 plants, following the same 480 grams per year limit. Clubs are also responsible for educating member on using the drug responsibly.
Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, believes by regulating and taxing marijuana, the state will be able to take the market from the hands of unmerciful drug traffickers who are only concerned with money rather than the public health.
The drug will be sold for 20 Uruguayan pesos per gram, which is cheaper than the price demanded by traffickers, thus spoiling their market. The government plans on putting the profit from marijuana sales toward increasing the public health system in the country.
So far, attempting to subdue the distribution of marijuana, the approach presently used by most countries, has not been effective. Due to this failure, the control of the market by drug traffickers remains a perennial concern, and ignoring significant issues has proven to be the worst way to solve problems.
Uruguay’s approach fixes the inconsistencies within its current regulation, as the sale of marijuana is illegal while the use of the drug is legal. Additionally, by legalizing marijuana, police can shift their focus to stop drugs that are more likely to generate crime and health problems, like cocaine and heroin.
Millions of dollars fluctuate in the marijuana market on a yearly basis, thus from an economic stance, the shift in control of the marijuana market is extremely beneficial to the government. With the new regulation, the state can put the money that is currently in the hands of drug traffickers towards public services. Greater investment in education, health, law enforcement, among others, is beneficial to the society as a whole, not just marijuana consumers.
Close attention is being paid to Uruguay as it adopts this new, bold approach towards fighting drug trafficking. The government intends to implement the new law slowly in order to do it correctly with as little flaws as possible. For this reason, the sales to consumers, originally planned to start this year, will not commence until next year. If the regulated legalization of marijuana is successful in curbing the violence caused by the trade of drugs, it is likely that other countries will adopt the Uruguayan model.