8 Aug, 13 | by BMJ
Guest post by Melissa Bone, University of Manchester
Uruguay is poised to become the first country in the world to legalise and regulate the sale of cannabis for recreational use. On the 31st July 2013 a draft bill legalising cannabis was passed by members of Uruguay’s lower house of congress, where 50 out of a possible 96 MPs voted in its favour. If approved by the senate as is expected then the government will legally control the production, distribution and sale of cannabis. The bill allows for each Uruguayan household to cultivate up to 6 cannabis plants. Alternatively, residents could join a co-operative which would be licensed to grow up to 99 plants. Private firms will be able to produce cannabis as well, but they will be required to sell it to the government, who will in turn sell it to consumers through pharmacies. Only Uruguayan citizens will be able to purchase cannabis; they can purchase up to 40g per month (minors will be excluded). Driving while under the influence will remain a crime.
Many commentators recognise that Uruguay has taken this bold step due to the devastation that’s wreaked by the so-called “war on drugs”. This phrase was first coined by President Nixon in1971, and it is widely employed on both sides of the drug legalisation debate to describe a global position that prohibits the possession, production, and sale of certain psychoactives, all of which are listed in the UN drug conventions. Advocates of drug reform often use the phrase to expose the aggressive and militant tactics which are used in producer countries especially, in an attempt to restrict the production and trade of illicit substances. For instance, the Latin American region has the highest murder and drug-related violence rates in the world, drug cartels have infiltrated and corroded various positions of power, infamous aerial fumigation operations have destroyed farmer’s livelihoods, and this along with numerous other human rights abuses provides the backdrop for Uruguay’s brave decision.
Predictably, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a committee tasked with ensuring compliance to the UN drug conventions, doesn’t quite see it this way. more…