Uruguay: The first country to make the move

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Recreational marijuana is now allowed in the South American country

Marijuana policy in Uruguay

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 will be remembered as the day when the first customers bought legal marijuana in a pharmacy for recreational use in South America. The story saw it’s beginning with the passing of the law 19.172; the Uruguayan government pushed forward to legalize and regulate the selling of the former illegal substance.

In order to buy, individuals must first register and only then will they be able to obtain a maximum of 40g per month, 10g a week, BBC informs. The measure implies a profound change in the direction of the Latin American nation and thus, the continent.

The law 19.172 has three main conclusions according to Dr. Gustavo Bordes Leone, a Uruguayan penal lawyer. First, it implies that the legalization of marijuana won’t have any problematic effects as a consequence of extended drug consumption. Second, it acknowledges that the measure is a risk itself, as medical investigations don't have strong conclusions on the consequences of the substance in the body. Third, it acknowledges that the war on drugs is over; any measure to punish the traffic has proven inefficient and the gradual decriminalization has proven to be the most efficient path for the state in terms of costs and general welfare.

The world is seeing a drastic policy change towards marijuana consumption. As of right now, 20 countries have adopted measures to regulate its use like the United States (28 states have allowed the use of the drug since California legalized in 1996), Portugal (2001), Netherlands (2003), Finland (2008), Italy, Uruguay, Czech Republic and Romania (2003), Chile (2014), Canada, Croatia and Jamaica (2015), Colombia, Australia, Israel and Macedonia (2016), Argentina, Austria and Germany (2017) and Spain, which has not officially made it legal but there is permissible loophole.

The measure goes beyond a political move to an economical one, as shown by 9News and TheHill. There are two reasons why: taxes and shifting equilibrium for the shadow market. Regarding dues, we have the example brought by the state of Colorado which serves as an ideal practice manual for the world.

During the past three years, the American State amassed 500 million dollars coming from the medical marijuana industry exhibiting a sustained year-by-year increase; 15% of the royalties from marijuana funds B.E.S.T, the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, while 2.9% from the sales tax on retail marijuana plus a 8.5% of the Special Sales Tax is destined to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, which delivers assistance to the departments of agriculture, education, health care policy and financing, human services, local affairs, public health and environment, public safety, transportation, the governor’s office, the judicial department, and the attorney general’s office.

On the other hand, it promotes regulatory oversight, youth prevention, public safety, and substance abuse treatment. As for the shadow market, a consumer will prefer to buy from the government as it implies safety. The reduction of the total sooq value of the drug market implies a diminishing demand that ultimately lowers its devastating effect.

Regardless of your ideology, there is a certainty that the global outlook on the war on drugs is changing rapidly; having a scenario where the drug is legalized will open the door for a new market in Latin America. Countries in this region have the optimal climate for the production of cannabis, a competitive factor as its marginal cost of production is the lowest under natural conditions. This may change the quality of life of millions that desire access to both medical and recreational marijuana.  


Latin American Post | David Rodríguez 

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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