Uruguay, cannabis and a lesson to the world

by Ray_North on December 26, 2013

images-2On the 23rd December 2013, President Jose Mujica of Uruguay signed off on the legislation allowing for the complete decriminalisation of the use, production of and sale of cannabis in his country – thus making Uruguay the most liberal nation on earth in terms of its drug laws.

In short, in Uruguay, the government can now grant a farmer a licence to produce cannabis, which can then be sold on to consumers via premises and outlets that, again, have been granted special licences for that purpose. All those involved will have to pay tax, whilst the consumers will not be treated as criminals for smoking weed, but, instead be treated like those addicted to cigarettes or alcohol might be in most other countries – that is as people with a health problem rather than an a criminal predilection.

Three massive cheers for Uruguay and the ace Jose Mujica as far as I’m concerned – what a wonderful politician and what a fascination country is being created in what is becoming the most fascinating region in the world.

What though are the implications of these law changes?

Well, first, I wouldn’t expect a great deal of change in the use of drugs in Uruguay, possession has been pretty much ignored in Uruguay for a number of years, but, what will happen is that those who are using cannabis will now be able to ensure that the drugs they are smoking are of good quality – so no risk of hepatitis from the process of changing cannabis leaves into resin and less risk of being sold high THC quantity drugs if that is not what you want – which is a real problem in Europe where extremely strong super skunk cannabis is causing mental health problems amongst long time users. Similarly, heavy users and habitual users, will now be able to seek help for their addiction without the fear of ending up in the criminal justice system – in fact, I expect, ultimately, cannabis use to remain stagnant, or perhaps fall a little.

Second, I fully expect crime in general to fall in Uruguay – I don’t know the facts and figures about drug related crime there, but, if it is anything like every other country, then a great deal of crime is tied up in drug users having to commit acquisitive crimes to pay for their habit, or from drug gangs branching out into racketeering and extortion as they maintain their grip on their ‘areas’ – the drug users will be able to purchase their drugs for a lower price; whilst the drug gangs will no longer be dependent upon the sale of illegal cannabis, something that will immediately impact upon their significance. In addition, police officers and resources that are currently used in drug enforcement will be freed up for other activities, which again, can only assist in the reduction of crime generally.

Third, in terms of the nations finances, I expect that the Uruguayan treasury will find that the taxes paid by cannabis farms and outlets will prove to be a nice little earner, especially if it is bolstered by a saving in the amount of money spent on trying to enforce the laws.

So, I fully expect Uruguay’s brave new drug policy to lead to a slight reduction in the use of cannabis, a fall in crime and an increase in tax income – it’s a phrase I detest, but….. it seems like a no brainer to me.

But that’s me, others will not be so supportive – the drug barons won’t be happy with having their income snatched away by a liberal administration and the North American right will be nervous of these laws – both sides will almost certainly respond and Mujica will become the target of the most unholy of alliances – the South American drug barons and the North American right wing. They will deride his every mistake, they will exaggerate every failing, they will undermine him and vilify him and ultimately, there may be elements who will do everything they can to remove him.

I for one, think that the world should support this very brave and progressive nation and their wonderfully heroic president. Viva Mujica.

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