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Officials in Uruguay, Chile Submit Marijuana Legalization Bills

  • Written by Claire O'Neill McCleskey
  • Thursday, 09 August 2012

While the Uruguayan president has endorsed a bill which would create a legal, state-run marijuana industry, congressmen in Chile are pushing a bill to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for personal use.

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On August 8, Uruguayan President Mujica sent congress a proposal for a bill that would establish a legal, state-run monopoly on marijuana cultivation and sales. The proposed law would give the government total control over the importation, production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

The principal objectives of the bill are to separate the legal and illegal markets for marijuana and to allow the state to focus its resources on combating more dangerous drugs.

The law would require customers to register with the government, in order both to prevent non-residents from buying state-produced marijuana and to track users’ monthly purchases. If a user goes above a certain limit, he or she must undergo drug rehabilitation treatment.

If the bill passes, the government plans to begin growing marijuana in September, although it has yet to provide details on how exactly the new system would work. Officials have concluded that in order to adequately serve the country’s 70,000 marijuana users, the government would have to produce around 5,000 pounds a month.

Also on August 8, two Chilean lawmakers submitted bill that would legalize small-scale cultivation of marijuana for personal and therapeutic use. Senator Fulvio Rossi, who admitted to regular marijuana use in a controversial interview last month, said that he introduced the legislation in hopes of initiating a serious debate about the appropriate limits for personal cultivation and possession. Although private consumption of marijuana is legal in Chile, cultivation is punishable with up to five years in prison.

InSight Crime Analysis

Concern over the power of organized crime and the desire to separate drug users from traffickers have led governments across Latin America to implement or at least consider decriminalization or legalization of marijuana and other drugs. Uruguay’s proposal, however, is unprecedented; according to the New York Times, establishing a legal, state-managed monopoly for marijuana would make Uruguay the “world’s first marijuana republic.

Drug trafficking and related violence appear to be on the rise in Uruguay, which has long been one of the safest countries in Latin America, but recent polling suggests that the Uruguayan public is skeptical of the government’s argument that legalizing marijuana will reduce organized crime and drug addiction. As of late June, 69 percent of those surveyed said the law would not reduce the drug trade. While creating a legal, regulated market for marijuana would certainly make purchasing and using the drug safer, many have questioned the government’s reasoning that access to marijuana will reduce consumption of cocaine paste, an addictive drug similar to crack.

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