Uruguay makes history by creating the world’s first nationally regulated cannabis market

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Uruguay makes history by creating the world’s first nationally regulated cannabis market

11 December 2013

LONDON, 11th DECEMBER 2013 – In an open letter, 114 civil society organisations from around the world welcome the Uruguayan Senate’s approval of a law to regulate cannabis (16 votes in favour, 13 against). This vote makes Uruguay the first national jurisdiction in the world to regulate the production, trade, sale and use of cannabis.

“The path taken by Uruguay establishes the basis for a new paradigm in drug policy. The organisations that have promoted these changes cannot ignore the efforts undertaken by the Uruguayan state. We will support Uruguay and every other state and jurisdiction as they seek to develop more sensible drug policies to tackle the problems related to health and security of their citizens, in full respect with international human rights treaties”, states the open letter.

The legislation now allows for cannabis to be accessible under tight state regulation, in four possible ways: availability for medical purposes, domestic cultivation of up to six plants, licensed sale in pharmacies, and membership clubs where up to 45 members can collectively produce 99 plants.

This cannabis regulation model is a logical step in a country that removed criminal sanctions for cannabis use over 40 years ago. This alternative drug policy approach aims to improve public security, reduce crime, and better address the health needs of Uruguayan citizens.

The government also believes that the legislation will promote social inclusion and provide numerous benefits for public safety. For instance, between 2006 and 2009, 79 percent of police operations linked to cannabis involved quantities of less than 50 grams, suggesting a tremendous expenditure of law enforcement resources on minor offenders. This bill will allow police to focus their attention on violent crime and spare the public the cost of processing and prosecuting minor, non-violent offences.

Other countries in Latin America, including Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, have already decriminalised cannabis use. Others, such as Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile, are considering alternatives approaches to the war on drugs, in the lead up to a high-level review of international drug control strategies at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in 2016.

Press contacts:

  • Clara Musto, Prolegal/Proderechos (Uruguay – available for comments in English and Spanish), c.musto@proderechos.org.uy , +44 (0) 774 229 3042

Key documents:

  • Click here to read the open letter.
  • Videos on the cannabis regulation (In Spanish with English subtitles).