In a bid to stamp out organized crime in the country, Uruguay has legalized the sale of about 20 marijuana cigarettes a month to its citizens.
Users will be able to buy 40 grams – or 1.4oz – a month, about enough to roll up 20 joints and the sale will be regulated by the state with the dope being sold at a market price of around $34.
To regulate their purchases, smokers will be given a card with a barcode that keeps track of the amount of pot each person purchases.
Uruguayan President José Mujica, who previously announced plans to grow up to 150 hectares of mariajuana for sale to users, said that his government hopes to eliminate the black market trade in pot – and related violence - by implementing this measure.
We are losing the battle against drugs and crime in South America. Somebody has to be the first.
- Uruguayan President José Mujica
“We are losing the battle against drugs and crime in South America. Somebody has to be the first,” Mujica said, according to the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail.
“The negative effects of consuming marijuana are far less harmful than the outbreak of violence associated with the black market,” added Interior minister Eduardo Bonomi
Uruguay’s director of the National Drug Council Julio Calzada said that the marijuana will be sold in specifically licensed stores similar to the sale of liquor in certain U.S. states and there will be a strict quality control over the pot.
Polls conducted in Uruguay, however, suggest that 60 percent of the country does not support the sale of marijuana.
Along with this, economist Carlos Casacuberta said the measure would not wipe out the country’s black market trade in marijuana.
“The drug traffickers will react as any other business would - they will look to compete with the government's marijuana, to find their niche,” he said. “'There will be two models of marijuana, the legal and the illegal.”
The legalization of certain drugs – namely marijuana- has become a talking point in many countries throughout Latin America and in the United States thanks in large part to the escalating violence related to drug trafficking.
Guatemalan Presdient Otto Pérez Molina suggested earlier this year that there should be a discussion into decriminalizing drugs in the region.
The former general argued on Mexican television that a regional strategy for decriminalization should be looked into as soon as possible. “Here we are speaking from the southern area, where it occurs, through all the countries like Guatemala that are transit points to Mexico and the United States," Pérez Molina said.
In the U.S., even as the Justice Department said that the legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction, some states are passing their own laws decriminalizing marijuana.
Besides the best known example of California, both Colorado and Washington state passed laws earlier this week that legalized the sale of certain amounts of marijuana.
"I think we are at a tipping point on marijuana policy," said Brian Vicente, co-author of Colorado's marijuana measure, according to the Associated Press. "We are going to see whether marijuana prohibition survives, or whether we should try a new and more sensible approach."