MONTEVIDEO — Uruguayan President José Mujica’s controversial marijuana regulation bill could soon be approved by Congress, making Uruguay the first country in the world to directly produce, sell, and control the consumption of marijuana.
The proposal for state-regulated marijuana is part of a package of sixteen different measures designed to fight violence and public insecurity in Uruguay. Possession and consumption of marijuana for personal use is not currently penalized in Uruguay, but commercialization is.
If the bill is successful, the nation of just over 3 million people could serve as a model for other countries in the region seeking alternatives to a costly, decades-long drug war. But first, Mujica must convince Uruguayans themselves that the measure makes sense.
Uruguayans are divided on the controversial cannabis issue. Last month, an Interconsult survey showed that 38 percent of Uruguayans supported state regulation of the marijuana trade and 60 percent were opposed, with those over the age of 63 more likely to disapprove of the measure. According to the survey, less educated Uruguayans were also more likely to be against the measure.
In a telephone interview last Thursday with Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) of Colombia, Mujica explained how the government should handle the sale of marijuana to registered consumers. He acknowledged that the drug problem in Uruguay is small in comparison to other countries in the region, but he wants to convince the Uruguayan majority to favor the legalization of marijuana.
“We are more concerned about drug trafficking than the drug itself,” said Mujica, who classified marijuana use as a “social vice” comparable to the consumption of alcohol. “While vices are medical problems, the other is an insoluble police problem.”