In a response to the rise in drug trafficking and illegal drug trade over the past several years, Uruguay has become the first country to allow for a decriminalized, government-controlled marijuana market, making it the first to fully legalize both the sale and production of marijuana. The state itself won’t do the actual growing, companies will be able to get a license to cultivate if they meet certain criteria. Aside from physical growing, the government will control the entire chain of the sale of cannabis, and determine the price, quality, and maximum production volume. Right now it seems each household may have up to six plants for their own consumption. Adult residents in Uruguay will be able to buy a monthly maximum of forty grams from the pharmacy.
One of the men behind the drug legislation effort is Julio Calzada, a sociologist who has spent over 24 years working with disadvantaged young people in the country’s slums. Calzada insists that by having government take control of the market by offering low prices and guaranteed quality, criminal organizations will lose the majority of their income. The current going rate in Uruguay for one gram of cannabis is $1 US, Calzada understands that the price needs to be kept low in order to compete with the black market,
“That’s the going price on the black market, which we need to compete with. Not more expensive, but not cheaper either. Research shows that consumers prefer the legal market to the black market if they have a choice. The quality is better and it’s safer, because they no longer have to deal with criminals.”
Unfortunately for tourists, they won’t be able to freely enjoy the perks of the new law. Only people with a place of residence in Uruguay may register, selling legally obtained marijuana to non-residents will remain illegal. It is estimated that the legalization will generate roughly $8-12 million in tax revenue. The National Drug Council is now in charge of implementing the new law, which was passed by the Senate on December 10th .
Although many are ecstatic over the decriminalization for smoking or growing a natural substance-not everyone is jumping for joy. The nation’s leader has been criticized by the United Nations for not running the idea of decriminalization through with the United Nations [UN] officials beforehand. Which [the Uruguayan president humorously pointed out] is a stipulation which the U.S. never had to follow with their Colorado and Washington decriminalization efforts.
The INCB affirms that the decriminalizing legislation violates the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which the South American country is part of,
“Uruguay is breaking the international conventions on drug control with the cannabis legislation approved by its congress,” – stated the INCB
Uruguay’s president shot back, accusing the head of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of lying and double standards, after the official claimed the country did not consult the anti-drug body before legalizing marijuana.
“Let him come to Uruguay and meet me whenever he wishes… Anybody can meet and talk to me, and whoever says he couldn’t meet with me tells lies, blatant lies…. Because he sits in a comfortable international platform, he believes he can say whatever nonsense,” – Jose Mujica added.
The President of Uruguay isn’t your typical government official, having earned himself the nickname , “el presidente mas pobre,” which translates to “poorest president.” He donates almost the entire amount of his presidential salary: receiving $12,500 a month but keeping only $1,250. He insists that he leaves himself enough to live on:
“I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less.”
Having no children of his own, Mujica has also announced his plans to adopt 30 to 40 poor children after his term ends in 2014. Instead of living in the presidential palace with his wife (who also donates a portion of her salary to charity), together they live on a farm in Montevideo.