A courageous move by the government of Uruguay approved by both Parliaments’ bodies is spearheading this country in the field of drug policies and specifically regarding cannabis use by individuals. A “gesture” of immense impact that should be closely followed, not only because of its openness, but for the lessons that can be learned in dealing with the major problem of drugs.
As a matter of fact Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana. The law allowing registered Uruguayans over 18 to buy up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug a month is not expected to come into force before April. The government hopes it will help tackle drug cartels. Surely critics say it will expose more people to drugs but this argument cannot stand by itself.
The pioneering government-sponsored bill establishes state regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals. Cannabis consumers would be allowed to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from state-regulated pharmacies as long as they are over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases. Uruguayans would also be allowed to grow up to six plants of marijuana in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces). They could also set up smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that could grow up to 99 plants per year. In a practical basis the bill gives authorities 120 days to set up a drug control board that will regulate cultivation standards, fix the price and monitor consumption.
Thus people will have four ways to access marijuana: medical marijuana through the Ministry of Public Health, domestic cultivation of up to six plants, membership clubs similar to those found in Spain, and licensed sale to adults in pharmacies. The bill was approved in the House of Representatives in late July and passed today’s Senate vote with 16 out of 29 votes.
“This development in Uruguay is of historic significance, Uruguay is presenting an innovative model for cannabis that will better protect public health and public safety than does the prohibitionist approach,”” said Ethan Nadelmann , founder and Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance , a leading sponsor of drug policy reform.
Hannah Hetzer  the policy manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance  correctly assesses that the consensus is there. One can only agree with the argument that marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked and it’s time to try an innovative, more compassionate, and smarter approach. Let’s hope that more countries soon follow Uruguay’s brave lead. Hannah Hetzer, in her editorial Finally a nation legalizes pot  expertly points out the following: “Why marijuana, why now, and why Uruguay? The following three simple reasons have a lot to do with today’s outcome:
– Because it’s the smart thing to do.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, and Uruguay knows this. For 40 years, marijuana prohibition simply hasn’t worked. Billions of dollars have been spent on repression, but marijuana use has only gone up — along with the number of lives lost to failed policies…
But rather than closing their eyes to the continuing problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking, Uruguay’s leaders have chosen responsible regulation of an existing reality.
– Because the winds are changing, and they’re starting to blow in that direction.
In recent years, debate and political will for an overhaul in drug policy has gained unprecedented momentum throughout the U.S., Latin America and elsewhere.
In 2011, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker and Richard Branson joined former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and other distinguished members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy  in saying the time had come to “break the taboo” on exploring alternatives to the failed war on drugs — and to “encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs,” especially marijuana.
More recently, Presidents Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia and Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala have joined these calls for reform. In May, the Organization of American States produced a report, commissioned by heads of state of the region, that included marijuana legalization as a likely policy alternative for the coming years…
By approving this measure, Uruguay has taken the broad regional discussion on alternatives to drug prohibition one step further, representing a concrete advance in line with growing anti-drug war rhetoric in Latin America and throughout the world…
– Because Uruguay is used to doing exceptional things.
… this tiny country of just over 3 million people has a history of remarkable political reforms and a strong human rights ethos.
Just last year, Uruguay legalized same-sex marriage and abortion. It has long been at the forefront of progressive policies, being one of the first nations in the region to grant divorce rights for women in 1912, instituting the eight-hour workday in 1915 and including women’s right to vote in its Constitution in 1917. It has never criminalized prostitution and has legally regulated it since 2002. In 2009, Uruguay granted adoption rights for same-sex couples and the legal right to choose one’s own gender identity.
This also comes from a country where the church and state have been officially separated since 1917…”