Pubdate: Thu, 12 Dec 2013
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2013sThe Australian


MONTEVIDEO (AFP) - Uruguay's Senate has approved a ground-breaking 
law that legalises marijuana, becoming the first nation to oversee 
the production and sale of the drug.

After a marathon debate, 16 leftist senators out of 29 legislators 
voted yesterday in favour of the legislation championed by President 
Jose Mujica, who must now sign it into law.

Outside the Senate, hundreds of cannabis-smoking supporters launched 
fireworks in what they dubbed "the last march with illegal marijuana".

"The war against drugs has failed," said senator Roberto Conde as he 
presented the bill on behalf of the ruling leftist Broad Front, 
calling it an "unavoidable response" to that failure.

The bill passed the lower house of congress in August and was assured 
of approval because the ruling coalition controls both chambers.

It authorises the production, distribution and sale of cannabis, 
allows individuals to grow their own on a small scale, and creates 
consumer clubs - all under state supervision and control.

Mr Mujica, 78, a former leftist guerilla fighter, has called his plan 
an experiment. "There are a lot of doubts and the doubts are 
legitimate," he said before the vote. "But doubts shouldn't paralyse 
us in trying new paths to deal with this problem that has gripped us."

However, he added: "We are not totally prepared, but as in 
everything, you have to give it a chance."

The legislation has caused unease in neighbouring Brazil and Argentina.

The bill goes well beyond the marijuana legalisation measures 
recently approved by the US states of Colorado and Washington, or the 
similarly liberal laws of The Netherlands and Spain.

Consumers over 18 will be able to grow their own marijuana, though no 
more than six plants a person. They can get it through clubs or buy 
up to 40gm a month from pharmacies.

In every case, they must be registered with the government.

Senator Conde argued the law strikes a balance between individual 
liberty and public health, while also resolving the "grotesque 
juridical inconsistency" arising from the status quo, in which 
marijuana consumption is not penalised but its production and sale is.

Opposition parties rejected the measure, as well as pharmacists, who 
reject the idea that marijuana will be sold in pharmacies. There is 
also widespread public scepticism in this small country of 3.3 
million. A poll taken in September found 61 per cent disapprove of the law.
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