Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing marijuana as a new law is working its way to the final stages of consideration by the Uruguayan Senate. The Senate is expected to approve the legislation today and forward it to the President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, for his final signature.
The people who pushed the new legislation through, the President’s Broad Front Coalition, want Uruguay to be the first country in the world to have a fully sanctioned marijuana industry.
The passing of the law is more or less a foregone conclusion. Even though the Senate previously rejected the proposed amendments, the ultimate decision lies with President Mujica, who is the biggest proponent of the law.
While at least two-thirds of Uruguayans oppose the new law, legalizing marijuana in this South American country is more a case of when than if.
Hannah Hetzer, a supporter and lobbyist for the legalization campaign, said she was delighted about the new law: “It’s about time that we see a country bravely break with the failed prohibitionist model and try an innovative, more compassionate, and smarter approach,” she said.
The main goal, according to the president, is to remove the mafia-style organized crime aspect from marijuana — not to promote the use of it in the country. The hope is that growers and suppliers will be able to sell the drug openly, thereby removing the profits that illegal traffickers and drug cartels make.
Julio Bango, the Socialist Deputy who co-authored the legislation, said: “This is not a law to liberalize marijuana consumption, but rather to regulate it. Today there is a market dominated by drug traffickers. We want the state to dominate it.”
A grower of marijuana, Marcelo Vasquez, told reporters that he will be more than happy to pay tax on the marijuana he has already grown illegally for the last 20 years: “This is a huge opportunity and we have to take advantage of it. My lifelong dream has been to legally cultivate marijuana, and to live off this, to pay my taxes.”