Uruguay ponders making government legal pot dealer

Aug 9, 2012, 9:14 PM

Associated Press

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) – A plan by Uruguay’s leaders to turn the government into the nation’s marijuana dealer has been presented to Congress, where the idea faces an uncertain fate.

President Jose Mujica’s entire Cabinet signed onto the proposed law, which aims to take over an illegal marijuana trafficking business estimated to be worth $30 million to $40 million a year.

The law would have government control marijuana imports, production, sale and distribution, creating a legal market for people to get pot without turning to riskier illegal drugs. The text submitted to Congress on Wednesday declares that the drug war is a failure and that marijuana is only mildly addictive, unlike “cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and psychotropic drugs.”

But lawmakers are divided on the idea, even within Mujica’s Broad Front coalition of leftist parties and social groups.

Mujica has said he’ll push the plan only if it gets at least 60 percent support in polls. An official in the president’s press office, speaking on condition of anonymity according to department policy, said the bill isn’t expected to advance quickly.

The text says the project’s goals include “the normalization and full social acceptance of marijuana use” so that consumers aren’t “stigmatized, nor treated as criminals.” Instead, it proposes education about the risks of marijuana use. The presidency’s website said Thursday that a National Drug Council would organize meetings to “facilitate reflection” on this point.

The text sent to Congress added that “marijuana has been for many years the most-consumed illegal substance” in Uruguay, and “has an important level of legitimacy in Uruguayan society.” It also cited precedents for various levels of decriminalization of marijuana possession in the Netherlands, Australia, Spain and several U.S. states.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Uruguay ponders making government legal pot dealer