We are in the middle of some incredible times for cannabis. Momentum for legalization continues to gather pace around the world and Uruguay now looks certain to become the first country to fully legalize cannabis. The recent decision at state-level in the USA to legalize cannabis in Colorado and Washington was a landmark moment for cannabis activists. It was a moment when the people reminded the politicians that they should be leading public opinion on cannabis, not ignoring it. Maine could be next, they will vote on legalization in November. But the decision from the Uruguayan House Of Representatives with 50 votes (out of 96) in favour of complete legalization, takes the global debate on cannabis to a whole new level.
Above, President Mujica of Uruguay. The first national leader to legalize cannabis, an example to other political leaders. He pays himself $12,000 per year and donates 90% of it to charity.
Never has a small nation such as Uruguay had the courage to swim against the international tide of cannabis prohibition and defy established convention. All that remains is for the Uruguayan Senate to approve the decision, which it is fully expected to do in October 2013 if not before. When that is done Uruguay will be the first country in the world to have a legally regulated market for the production, sale and distribution of cannabis. There will be three ways of getting pot in Uruguay, either from a pharmacy, a cannabis social club or by growing it yourself. It is a great political victory for President Mujica who first proposed cannabis legalization a year ago.
The United Nations are unhappy about the decision by Uruguay to improve its drug policies, but the UN will lose credibility if it aligns itself too closely with the failed policy of prohibition. The International Narcotics Control Board (the UN narcotics agency) says Uruguayan legalization would "be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug treaties to which Uruguay is party". However, United Nations policy has been largely influenced by the USA. The decision by the US states of Colorado and Washington to legalize pot has made it impossible for either the USA or the UN to complain too loudly about Uruguay. Many other South American nations are watching carefully, legalization of cannabis is the start of a new era. Legalization allows a way to eliminate drug-funded organised crime and remove the violence. It will be fascinating to hear what Uruguay’s President Mujica has to say to the UN when he visits them to make a speech explaining his plans to legalize cannabis. That speech, when it happens in September, is likely to make headlines in the global media. Watch out for it.
Above, Dutch Passion Think Different (grown by Bam Bud). We like the way Uruguay chose to Think Differently about cannabis.
Prohibition of cannabis has allowed organised crime to enjoy tax-free funding for far too long. Legalization of cannabis removes it. Other countries and political leaders will be watching closely and will be keen to implement similar proposals now that Uruguay has made the first move. South American countries in particular have paid a heavy price fighting the unwinnable war on drugs, and many observers now expect countries including Mexico and Colombia to implement new laws of their own. The war on drugs is falling apart rapidly and common sense is at last winning the debate. The move by Uruguay is a historic first step. Cannabis is far safer than we were told by our leaders, and it is also a highly effective medicine. The laws against cannabis have always been far more dangerous than the actual herb itself. When used responsibly by adults cannabis is far safer than alcohol and tobacco.
The world has suffered from bad policy for too long, cannabis laws need changing. President Mujica will be one Uruguayan politician whose name will go down in history for setting a new global direction on cannabis. Mujica is the first national leader to decide that cannabis prohibition is simply wrong. The laws making cannabis illegal have caused far more harm and damage than cannabis ever could, and the laws have cost $billions across the globe to enforce. The people of Maine will vote, on Nov 25th, to legalise personal possession of 2.5 ounces of pot and allow people to grow up to 6 plants. A recent vote in Illinois means that medical use of cannabis will be legal from Jan 1st 2014. Arkansas is considering a bill to legalise medical cannabis, Florida is in the first stage of their legalization program and activists in other states are all pushing for legalization. Very soon over half the USA will have legal cannabis. There has never been such a dramatic collapse in prohibition as we have seen in the last couple of years, and momentum continues to actually build. Where the USA goes the rest of the world follows and public opinion for the full legalization of cannabis is at an all time high in the USA. Polls show that over 50% of the USA now wants cannabis legalized. The same is true in The Netherlands where, according to the reputable (and influential) poll-company Maurice De Hond, the majority of public opinion also favours complete legalization of pot like Uruguay. Yet Dutch politicians have historically been more worried about the reaction of the USA and their European neighbours than their own voters.
Finally we have international appetite for change. Who knows where we will be in a year from now. One thing is for sure, we will see more US states legalising and hopefully a few more nations following Uruguay’s example.
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August 9th 2013