Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances in Uruguay

From the BBC:

“Members of Uruguay’s House of Representatives have passed a bill to legalize marijuana. If it goes on to be approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, who says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana. The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialization and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’.”

This is a fantastic experiment. For the first time in modern history, the world will see what happens when you fully legalize the use and sale of marijuana. While the successful legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington are on paper the same thing, the federal government’s continued enforcement efforts mean that full legality is just a pipe dream for now.

The most interesting aspect of this legislation is the fact the it is the government who will be the sole source of marijuana for purchase. While this is different than the legalization schemes in Colorado and Washington, which allow for private sales of marijuana, it is very similar to alcoholic beverage control (ABC) policies that exist in the US. There are many states where the the only places to buy hard alcohol are state-run liquor stores. And while I personally would prefer that the government not have a monopoly in the alcohol business, ABCs are a policy framework that the Uruguayans can look to for their own marijuana shops.

If the results from the measure are positive, which I think they will be, it would be a big boost to legalization efforts around the world. Already in the US, there are legalization initiatives underway in Alaska, Oregon, and Arizona for the 2014 ballot.  And Illinois Governor Pat Quinn just signed a bill that made his state the 20th to allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by doctors.

So how far will this thing go? I’d say the chances for full legalization within the next decade are extremely high.

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