Uruguay Slows Marijuana Push Amid Criticism

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President Jose Mujica of Uruguay has urged congress to hold off on its debate over the decision to legalize the state sale of marijuana, citing a lack of public support.

The president told the press that the people of Uruguay were “not yet ready,” for a law that would legalize marijuana sale through government outlets, El Pais reports. He then urged parliament not to push forward with the legislation until majority support is reached among the public.

In the speech, President Mujica said he intended to generate a wider debate on the issue among the population of Uruguay and will not vote on the law simply because it holds a legislative majority.

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According to a recent report, 60 percent of the Uruguayan population oppose the government’s plan to legalize marijuana sales. Among their concerns is a doubt that the law will limit consumption of the drug in any way. More importantly perhaps, there is widespread doubt that the law would in any capacity halt the regional drug trade.

Some other Latin American countries where the use and sale of marijuana is widespread have already dismissed the possibility of legalization. While others, like Uruguay, hope to keep the discussion open. 

The push for legalization may be furthest in Colombia, where the president has stated his openness to legalization and the supreme court ruled in June to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot and cocaine. Keeping the subject open last month, the United Nations approved a proposal backed by several Latin American countries that raises alternative approaches to the war on drugs, including drug law reform and legalization.

Legalization of marijuana will likely continue to be a hot subject for debate in Latin American countries, considering the United States, where demand for the drug is the highest, is beginning to liberalize its own marijuana laws. As one former foreign minister of Mexico asked, “Why are Mexican troops up in the mountains . . . searching for tunnels, patrolling the borders, when once this product reaches Colorado it becomes legal.”

For Uruguay, however, considering more than half of President Mujica’s own party still oppose the legislation, it is likely to be some time before the law comes any closer to implementation.

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