U.S. Criticizes Uruguay’s Move To Legalize Marijuana

U.S. Criticizes Uruguay’s Move To Legalize Marijuana
Image credit: Wendy McCormick

In recent months, Uruguay has moved to legalize marijuana. Doing so, the country believes, will deprive drug dealers and criminals of a valuable source of income. Regulated marijuana sales could also lead to increased tax revenues, and allow the government to focus on controlling more dangerous drugs. The final vote on whether or not to legalize the production and supply of marijuana will come next week.

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Next week, the Uruguay Senate will vote on a final bill to legalize the production, sale, and distribution of cannabis to adults. The bill passed the house of representatives, garnering 50 of 96 total votes. If passed, the government would have another 120 days to write the regulations necessary to implement the bill. Most believe that the Senate will pass the bill, however, international pressure has been ramping up in recent weeks.

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Marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic; legalized in two US States

The State Department has cited the 1961 U.N. convention on drug control and argued that if Uruguay legalizes marijuana, it could be in violation of the international agreement. Cannabis is listed in Schedule 1 of the 1961 convention and would appear to be under international regulation. This convention prohibits the production and supply of certain drugs and narcotics, and the regulation of other drugs and narcotics.

Critics, however, have pointed out that UN treaties have been violated on numerous occasions by the United States and its allies. As such, their legal status is highly questionable and a ‘glasses houses’ argument would seem to apply. At the same time, two states within the United States have already largely legalized marijuana and numerous others have decriminalized it. Given these points, it’s questionable how much right the United States really has to criticize Uruguay over this move.

Numerous other politicians and leaders throughout Latin America have actually praised Uruguay for the move. If nothing else, legalization in Uruguay offers a chance to experiment and to see if it is really an effective way to combat drug lords. With the expensive war on drugs producing little in the way of results, legalization of less harmful drugs may prove to be an effective way to reduce the power and scope of the drug gangs that now control and terrorize much of Latin America.

Other leaders, including Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker and Richard Branson, have argued that it is time to at least explore alternatives. The Organization of American States has even predicted a large-scale shift towards legalizing cannabis throughout the Western hemisphere. The drug war has cost thousands of lives, and millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Uruguay decriminalized the use of marijuana

Uruguay has already decriminalized the use of marijuana, which would not appear to be in violation of the UN treaty as it specifically cites the production and supply, not use, of drugs. The country is hoping, however, to destroy the criminal networks that currently supply marijuana to its population. Such criminal rings have long relied on cannabis for income, and have used it as a gateway drug to sell harder and more addictive narcotics.

Beyond condemning the move, the United States has not announced any further steps. Behind the scenes, however, it is possible that the United States and other countries, such as Brazil, which also suffers from a massive drug use problem, could be exerting further pressure. Some countries fear that marijuana legalization could lead to increased exports to other countries and set a bad example. The Uruguay government has already announced that foreigners will not be able to buy pot through the system.

On the other hand, regulating marijuana production and supply could make it easier to track where the marijuana is being shipped and who is using it. Indeed, the government has largely positioned the bill as a crime fighting method that will help it battle gangs and drug dealers. With marijuana use so pervasive and decriminalized, demand dictates that there will always be supply. Thus, regulating supply may be the best way to undercut drug dealers and gangs who have long profited off the sale of marijuana.

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