When Uruguayans go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, the results could have lasting impacts on drug policy around the world.
With the country’s landmark marijuana legalization bill last year, Uruguay became the world’s first nation to legalize the production, sale and distribution of marijuana—making it a model for the global legalization movement.
But just ahead of Sunday’s runoff election, polls show that as many as two-thirds of Uruguayans support repealing the marijuana law. Tabare Vasquez of President Jose Mujica’s leftist Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition remains well ahead of his challenger, Luis Lacalle Pou of the centre-right Partido Nacional (National Party) in most polls (Spanish), but pro-marijuana legalization advocates are uneasy.
If Lacalle Pou wins, he said in an interview with Reuters last month, he would keep the part of the bill that allows users to grow their own marijuana plants at home (up to six per household) and authorize the so-called social clubs—local non-commercial organizations where up to 45 paying members can jointly cultivate up to 99 plants. But, he said he would “repeal the rest, in particular the state’s commercialization of the drug.”
What Lacalle Pou was referring to is the licensed sale and distribution of marijuana in pharmacies, where early next year individuals will be able to purchase up to 10 grams of cannabis a week at a government set price of about $1 per gram.
This part of the bill is what distinguishes it from, say, Colorado’s or Washington’s, says Hannah Hetzer, policy manager for the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance, the largest drug policy reform organization in the United States.
“By selling cannabis in pharmacies at a set price, you are regulating the market that already exists and taking it from the illicit to the …read more