Uruguay marijuana legalization supporters

While public opinion remains largely opposed to marijuana regulation in Uruguay, a new poll shows support for the bill is growing, especially among likely voters for the ruling FA coalition, which could be good news for countries hoping to follow Uruguay's drug policy example.

On September 2, leading Uruguayan pollster Cifra published the results of a new survey on marijuana regulation carried out from August 15-24, which brought good news for supporters of the bill. The polling firm found that 61 percent of the country was opposed to the measure, a five-point drop since it was first proposed by President Jose Mujica in July 2012. The latest poll confirms that there has been a definite, albeit slight, downward trend in disapproval of the law in the past year.

marijuana1

The Cifra poll also found that, while conservative Colorado and National Party voters remain overwhelmingly against it, support for the bill has grown among individuals who identify as Frente Amplio (FA) voters. For the first time since the bill was presented, more FA supporters are on board with marijuana regulation (47 percent) than against it (40 percent).

marijuana2

InSight Crime Analysis

The new Cifra poll is good news for advocates of marijuana regulation in Uruguay. It provides Regulacion Responsable -- the coalition of civil society groups which has banded together to support the bill -- with a useful narrative to present to legislators sitting on the fence about the initiative. Although it is expected to face a far easier time in the Senate, with no FA senators likely to oppose it, some are sure to have private doubts about the wisdom of supporting such an unpopular initiative. They may have fewer qualms with a relative majority of their party's supporters now backing the bill.

However, the poll did not bring all positive news for supporters. Alarmingly, some two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) said they would "probably" or "definitely" sign a petition to hold a referendum on the bill. Under Uruguayan law, if the opposition presents signatures from 2 percent of the electorate (roughly 52,000 people) in January or February of next year, a preliminary vote on whether to hold a referendum could take place in March or April. If over 25 percent of the electorate participates in that vote, the marijuana regulation law could face a referendum in July 2014.

Fortunately for regulation advocates, the odds of this happening are very slim. Although the opposition was able to gather enough signatures to trigger a preliminary vote in June on whether to hold a referendum on a controversial abortion decriminalization law passed last year,  this ultimately failed. Only 8.8 percent of the electorate turned out, despite the fact that over 50 percent of those polled had said they would participate. If the opposition could not mobilize enough people to come out against abortion, a highly emotional issue, it is unlikely that they will be able to do so for marijuana, and the Frente Amplio is counting on this.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

That the bill is unlikely to be removed via a referendum is also good news for international actors looking to Uruguay to provide a new drug policy model. Lawmakers in Mexico, for instance, have directly cited Uruguay's initiative as the inspiration for a bill that would center around authorizing membership clubs and cultivation for personal use.

If the bill survives the opposition's attempts to strike it from Uruguay's lawbooks, it will also provide an interesting laboratory to examine the effect of marijuana legalization on insecurity and organized crime. The Uruguayan law will regulate every aspect of the illicit market for the drug (production, sale and distribution), which currently brings in around $35 million to criminal groups. If it succeeds in lowering the country's rising crime rate, it will likely fuel the arguments of those calling for more relaxed marijuana laws in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, like Colombia and Guatemala.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.