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Will Uruguay Become The First Country To Legalize Marijuana?


uruguay marijuana legalizationUnions, Doctors and Civil Society Mobilize Support Ahead of Upcoming Parliamentary Vote

Government to Vote on Issue This Summer

This summer – perhaps  as soon as this Wednesday – the Uruguayan House of Representatives will vote on a bill to legalize marijuana. If approved by both the House and Senate, Uruguay will become the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.

The marijuana legalization proposal was put forward by President José Mujica of theFrente Amplio (Broad Front) last June as part of a comprehensive package aimed at fighting crime and public insecurity. After a year of studying the issue, engaging in political debate, redrafting the bill, and the emergence of a public campaign in favor of the proposal, Uruguay’s parliament is set to vote on the measure this summer.

In the year since Mujica’s announced his proposal, support for the initiative has risen among diverse sectors of Uruguayan society. A national TV ad campaign, featuring a mothera doctor, and a lawyer explaining the measure’s benefits on public safety and health – has reached hundreds of thousands of Uruguayans.  Regulación Responsable(“Responsible Regulation”), the coalition of prominent Uruguayan organizations and individuals that support the initiative, has held events around the country, sparking debate at all levels. LGBT, women’s rights, health, student, environmental and human rights organizations have all united to support Regulación Responsable, alongside trade unions, doctors, musicians, lawyers, athletes, writers, actors and academics. “This is a truly diverse movement comprised of people who believe that marijuana reform will benefit all of Uruguayan society,” said Hannah Hetzer, who is based out of Montevideo, Uruguay, as the Policy Manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Uruguayan proposal has also gained attention abroad over the past year, as momentum has built throughout the U.S., Latin America and elsewhere for broad drug policy reforms. Last November, Colorado and Washington became the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world to approve the legal regulation of marijuana.

In mid-July, former president of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, publicly praised Uruguay in an op-ed published throughout the region. A week later, Uruguayan members of Congress received a letter of support signed by 65 Mexican legislators, congratulating their “leadership” in promoting “better drug policies and laws.” And just this Monday, these Uruguayan members of Congress received a second letter of support signed by more than 100 organizations worldwide, celebrating “the immense contribution and comprehensive proposal to deal with the implications that drugs have on health, development, security and human rights.”

Mujica is joined by a growing chorus of current and former Latin American leaders, who agree that legal regulation will prevent marijuana consumers from being exposed to other drugs available on the illicit market, allow access to medical marijuana for patients in need, and enable Uruguay to reinvest the millions of dollars currently flowing into the pockets of drug traffickers into education, treatment and prevention of problematic drug use. 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 and predicted a hemispheric move toward marijuana legalization in the coming years.

The bill will first be voted on in the Uruguayan House and, if approved, passed to the Senate. The governing coalition, the Frente Amplio, has majorities in both houses, which would mean approval for the measure if all legislators vote along party lines. “By approving this measure, Uruguay will take the broad regional discussion on alternatives to drug prohibition one step further. It will represent a concrete advance in line with growing anti-drug war rhetoric in Latin America,” said Hetzer.

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. AnarchoSchizo on

    Uruguay is more first-world than the United States, guy. The standard of living is much higher — affordable healthcare system, free education for all, lowest crime rate, low tax, etc.

    Fun fact: Uruguay was the first country in the Americas to implement an 8-hour a day work week – it has a stronger labor movement than the U.S. (actually the US has a violent labor history, come to think of it), it’s the first country to allow women to vote, first country to abolish slavery.

    I mean, if by advanced you mean state-Capitalism, then yeah, the U.S. does a great job being a lead example with marginalizing the bourgeois and keeping the rich folk happy.

  2. El Pollo Locro on

    I was just in Uruguay a few weeks ago (I’m an expat living in Argentina). I had the opportunity to speak to some locals about this issue. Everyone I spoke to directly was in favor of legalization. Their viewpoints were very lucid and well thought out. Uruguay is a beautiful country, with many wonderfully friendly people. Their economy, in general, lacks domestic production of industrial products (they sell a lot of delicious grass fed, free-grazing beef though!). I would love to see a local industrial hemp farming and hemp products industry spring up in Uruguay. It could be a great economic example for what could be done in other countries with this valuable cash-crop!

  3. it hasn’t even passed yet, guys. A little bit early to be saying that Uruguay is “way more advanced” than the U.S.

  4. AnarchoSchizo on

    Drug haven in peaceful Uruguay? I think not.

    President Mujica announced last year that only citizens of Uruguay would be able buy pot. Of course, there’s always some leeway around it, like getting someone to buy it for you, but marijuana tourism?


  5. These new laws are being primarily passed by cities in the southern region of the Netherlands due to their problems with drug trade near the border. Just got back from Amsterdam, and I assure you that city and Holland in general has no plans or desire to restrict drug tourism in the near future. But indeed, with the new developments, it will be interesting to see how the “weed capital” shifts, if at all, in the future.

  6. Obviously so. But it’s a common misconception that cannabis is legal in Netherlands. It’s been decriminalized there for a long term. And while possession/consumption of cannabis and coffee shops are illegal de jure, these have been tolerated by the government. To the point where a court case even ruled that individual prosecutions aren’t valid.

  7. It’s a sovereign country. Their marijuana laws have recently changed, and I believe tourists are no longer allowed to visit the famous “coffee shops,” at least in some cities. Maybe the new pot tourism mecca will be Montevideo?

  8. Timothy Leary Byrnes on

    My hope is the rest of the world *and* these United States pays attention 2 how much this benefits Uruguay!

  9. “legal regulation will prevent marijuana consumers from being exposed to other drugs available on the illicit market, allow access to medical marijuana for patients in need, and enable Uruguay to reinvest the millions of dollars currently flowing into the pockets of drug traffickers into education, treatment and prevention of problematic drug use”. To me that statement makes perfect sense. Why are they so much smarter than we are? I thought we were supposed to be smarter than everybody.

  10. that great! And also lets have the story on Wash Dc’s Capital City Care, A man enters becoming the first person to purchase, legally, medical marijuana in Washington, D.C. on July 29, 2013.

  11. Fun facts from the CIA World Factbook.
    Uruguay; is 88% white, official language is Spanish, the dominant religion is Catholic, 3.3 million people, average income $16,200 (2012)

  12. Who would have thought that tiny Uruguay would be so far ahead of the “first world” countries on this issue? Will we be left in the dust by smaller, more agile governments that can adapt and change with the times? The US and European Union are starting to resemble dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to them…

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