Uruguay becomes first nation to legalise marijuana trade
Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.
11 December 2013The Uruguayan government hopes legalising the sale of marijuana will tackle drug cartels
After nearly 12 hours of debate, senators gave the government-sponsored bill their historic final approval.
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, but critics say it will expose more people to drugs.
Dozens of supporters of the bill proposed by the left-wing President Jose Mujica gathered outside the Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote.
Presenting the bill to fellow senators, Roberto Conde said it was an unavoidable response to reality, given that the "war" against drugs had failed.
"We have the duty as the state to give a specific answer to an open territory, small and non-producing," Mr Conde said, adding that Uruguay's borders were used by cartels to smuggle drugs into neighbouring countries.
But many senators also spoke out against the bill, before it was passed by 16 votes to 13 on Tuesday.
The opposition member Alfredo Solari said Uruguay should not "experiment" on its people.
"This project envisages a social engineering experiment and respects none of the ethic safeguards of experimentation on human beings, and these are important in the case of a substance like marijuana, which causes damage to human beings," Senator Solari told Reuters news agency.
The project had already been approved by Uruguay's lower house in July.
It had also drawn international criticism. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned the law would "be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug treaties to which Uruguay is party".
The INCB is an independent body of experts established by the United Nations to monitor countries' compliance with international drug treaties.
The historic approval comes amid growing debate over drug legalisation in Latin America.
A group of former presidents and influential social figures, including Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Colombian ex-leader Cesar Gaviria, have called for marijuana to be legalised and regulated.
But President Mujica recently asked during an interview why the former leaders only spoke out about the legalisation of marijuana after they had left office.
In July, without naming Uruguay directly, Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to Brazil.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-25328656
..mean while, in Amnerika:In 2 States, Corner Cannabis Store Nears Reality
DENVER — Starting early next year, any adult with a craving or curiosity will be able to stroll into a strip mall or downtown shop in Colorado or Washington State and do what has long been forbidden: buy a zip-lock bag of legal marijuana. Vincent Graham, a center manager in Denver, helped Mark Paquette, a patient with a marijuana order.
After landmark votes made marijuana legal for recreational consumption, users in these two states will no longer need doctors’ notes or medical reasons to buy the drug. Instead, they will simply show identification to prove they are at least 21, and with the cautious blessing of state and federal officials, they will be able to buy as much as an ounce of marijuana and smoke it in their living rooms.
It is a new frontier of drug legalization, one that marks a stark turn away from the eras of “Reefer Madness,” zero tolerance and Just Say No warnings about the dangers of marijuana. But it also raises questions about whether these pioneering states will be able to regulate and contain a drug that is still outlawed across most of the country — although medical marijuana can be sold legally in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The end of the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s, by contrast, to which some historians and legal scholars are comparing this moment, came all at once across the nation.
On this never-traveled road, the outcome on many fronts is uncertain: Supporters predict an economic boom in new business activity, cannabis tourism and reduced public expense with fewer low-level drug offenders clogging jails and courtrooms.
Elected officials, parents’ groups and police chiefs worry that drug traffickers will exploit the new markets, that more teenagers will take up marijuana, and that two places with reputations for fresh air and clean living will become known as America’s stoner states.
Other states flirting with legalization are watching closely too, not least for the expected windfall in state revenue in stiffly taxing something that has never been taxed at all.
Referendum drives modeled on Colorado and Washington are already underway for next year in Arizona, California, Oregon and Alaska, and others are expected to follow in 2016. So the pressures to get it right the first time, local and state officials said, are immense.
“We are floating in uncharted waters here,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver, where 149 businesses have applied to sell or grow retail marijuana.
Consider, for example, the strangely altered new role of the police, who in Washington are required to make sure all marijuana is of the legal, state-licensed variety. That could make for more crackdowns on illegal grow-and-sale operations, not fewer, a fact highlighted when federal agents raided several dispensaries in Colorado last month, smashing glass and hauling away hundreds of plants.
Practical questions about the legal, workaday drug trade have required reams of rules and regulations to answer: Should it be specifically taxed? Voters said yes, and in Washington even specified where the tax money should be spent, with specific apportionments including the funding of academic research about marijuana.
Can people give it away in public parks? No. Where can retailers set up shop, and how can they advertise? Nowhere near schools, and not to children. In Washington, even the size of a retailer’s storefront name is regulated: 1,600 square inches.
But most important, Colorado and Washington must show skeptical federal authorities that they can control this new world of regulated marijuana, and keep it from flowing to underage consumers, into other states or into the grip of drug traffickers and violent cartels. Even as the Justice Department announced in August that it would not block states from regulating marijuana, it also warned that their enforcement rules “must be tough in practice, not just on paper.”
“We’re already seeing a worst-case scenario emerging,” said Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of legalization and the co-founder of Project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. He said marijuana was already flowing from dispensaries into the hands of teenage users, and he predicted the social costs would only mount in the months ahead.
One corner of this new frontier is emerging in an industrial park on the eastern fringes of Denver, where the Medicine Man dispensary is working to be among the first wave of new retailers. The business, housed in a converted spice factory, is expanding its growing operation from 5,000 plants to 11,000, sketching out plans to remodel the interior and placing advertisements in golfing magazines, to appeal to potential customers. Even the countercultural names of its marijuana — Cat Piss Romulan, for example — will be softened.
“That’s not something you want to take home,” said Andy Williams, who owns Medicine Man with his brother and mother. “Maybe we’ll call it Midnight Dream.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/us/in-2-states-corner-cannabis-store-nears-reality.html