June 24, 2017  Last Update: December 21, 2016, 11:10 pm

Uruguay Legalizing Marijuana

Uruguay legalizing marijuana in April, 2014.

Uruguay legalizing marijuana in April, 2014.

Uruguay is set to make history in spring of 2014, becoming the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Viewed by many as a social experiment with world-wide ramifications, the law and its effects are being closely watched by countries and activists around the globe. The legislation fully legalizes the production, sale and use of cannabis, and is aimed at wresting the pot business from criminal cartels in the region.

After approval by the Senate on a 16-13 margin, Uruguay’s first lady, Senator Lucía Topolansky told Reuters: “We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking.” Uruguay’s leftist president Jose Mujica defended his initiative as a way to regulate and tax a business that already exists but is in the hands of criminals. “We’ve given this market as a gift to the drug traffickers and that is more destructive socially than the drug itself, because it rots the whole of society,” he told Argentine news agency Telam.

We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking.
- Uruguayan Senator Lucía Topolansky

There’s been quite a lot of movement surrounding the effort to decriminalize or legalize recreational pot use. Earlier this year, two U.S. states moved to legalize recreational use of cannabis; Washington and Colorado. “Last year, Colorado and Washington; this year, Uruguay; and next year, Oregon and hopefully more states as well,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “We still have a long way to go but who would have believed, just five years ago, that legalizing marijuana would become a mainstream political reality so quickly both in the United States and abroad?!”

Uruguay legalizes marijuana trade - is this important?
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Do you think Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana will have broader implications? Will it result in an increase in crime rates and a heightened use of other illicit substances? Or will pot become as accepted in mainstream society as alcohol has largely become? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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