Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2013
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2013 The New York Times Company
Author: Simon Romero


SANTIAGO, Chile - Uruguay's Senate approved legislation on Tuesday 
that will allow the country to legalize the cultivation and sale of 
marijuana on a nationwide scale. Uruguay's leftist president, Jose 
Mujica, a supporter of the measure, has signaled that he will enact 
the legislation in coming days.

Under the legislation, approved by a vote of 16 to 13, Uruguay would 
create a state-run Institute for the Regulation and Control of 
Cannabis to oversee the planting, harvesting and sale of marijuana. 
The drug would be sold at pharmacies, with buyers signing up in a 
state registry, a process enabling them to purchase up to 40 grams a 
month at $1 a gram.

The action on the bill followed years of debate in Uruguay, which has 
been grappling with an increase in drug-related violence. Opponents 
contended the measure would open the way for greater drug use in 
Uruguay, while supporters claimed it would remove the marijuana trade 
from the domain of illegal traffickers, allowing the authorities to 
regulate its consumption.

"We are convinced that we can apply our own policy to drugs in 
compliance with international norms," said Roberto Conde, a senator 
in Uruguay's governing Broad Front coalition.

Under Mr. Mujica, Uruguay has emerged as one of Latin America's most 
socially liberal nations, moving to legalize gay marriage and 
abortion. The lower house of Uruguay's Congress approved the 
marijuana bill in July.

Most Uruguayans oppose the legalization of marijuana, according to 
polls, but the Broad Front coalition of leftist parties still seemed 
to be popular enough to expose itself to disapproval over the law. 
"This is seen as forming part of a new agenda, which in terms of 
legal rights Uruguay has advanced in recent years," said Adolfo 
Garce, a political scientist at the University of the Republic in 
Montevideo, the capital.

While marijuana is already tolerated to a large degree in Uruguay, 
the law would allow households to grow up to six plants each, and 
cooperatives to form to grow up to 99 plants together. All growers 
would be required to register their production with the government, 
which plans to import seeds from abroad and control the potency of plants.

Some opposition to the law has been voiced in neighboring countries, 
while the International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations 
has also expressed concern. "We could turn into a regional center of 
cannabis tourism, as the region fears," said Alfredo Solari, an 
opposition senator in Uruguay.

Still, the law would limit purchases of marijuana in pharmacies to 
Uruguayan citizens over the age of 18 in an attempt to prevent drug tourism.

Fabian Werner contributed reporting from Montevideo, Uruguay.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom