The regulation of cannabis in Uruguay

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
On December 11, 2013, Uruguay became paradise for many people. It may sound shocking, but who would say that a country like Uruguay, considered as « Switzerland » of Latin America, ever legalized the sale of marijuana.


What the law supports

It is because the new law put into force by its President, José Mujia, which Uruguay becomes the first Latin American country to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, and the first in the world to put in the hands of the state the control of all these aspects. This measure has been carried out taking into account that one third of the prison population is linked to drug trafficking. So far, the primary mode of combat it has been policing and the hardening of the laws. This new tendency to partially legalize drugs to end black traffic is also supported by other leaders as the President of Ecuador, who calls for a « partial » legalization to finish with what they called ‘Dry law’, which encourages organized crime. Despite having not been supported by all the leaders of the Frente Amplio, as Deputy Darío Pérez party who reaffirms that marijuana will continue with or without law dealing, it managed to get the majority of votes. However, it can be said that is one of the « most impressive projects of the legislature » of Mujica (2010-2015) and implies a « paradigm shift from the subject of the drug ».


But, exactly, what is this regulation?

According to the Government, the State assumes the control and regulation of the activities of import, production and acquisition to any title, storage, marketing and distribution of marijuana or its derivatives. All this with the objective is to snatch the market to drug cartels and avoid that the Uruguayans lean by using hard drugs. It will create a State Agency, the Institute of regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), which depends on the Ministry of public health and will issue licenses and controls the production, distribution and sale. This can be purchased at community pharmacies and first class possessing a license and its dispensation will require recipes like other products of controlled use. It can also be purchased for those who possess a license to grow it (up to six plants and a maximum of 480 grams per harvest per year) and in certain clubs which is set to a minimum of 15 members and a maximum of 45, and a number of plants proportional with a maximum of 99. Its sale will be restricted to over 18 that have been registered as consumers for recreational or medicinal use of marijuana. Regarding the price, stated between 20 to 22 pesos per gram, which would amount to less than one euro, is always less than the price of illegal marijuana and ensuring its quality. The maximum a person can consume will be 40 grams, same number which shall apply as the maximum limit that you can expend per person per month. The prohibitions of consumption will be the same that exist for tobacco. What is most striking is that this initiative has received the support of personalities such as the Nobel Prize for literature Mario Vargas Llosa, of several Presidents of the region and to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, who considers it to be something that is « worth trying ». But if we focus on the perception of Uruguayan citizens, a survey reported by consulting figure reveals that 63% of these rejected the Government plan and only 26% supported it.


International framework

What will be the consequences that the legalization of cannabis will bring?

According to the collective of organizations in favor of the project, responsible for regulation, « business opportunities are opened to domestic producers, pharmacies and other actors involved in the production chain ». Addition in recent years is initiated in the world a process of research and generation of knowledge surrounding marijuana, especially in the medical and pharmaceutical field, noting there are cannabis with psychoactive purposes, but also industrial hemp for production of fabrics, paper, biofuels and an endless opportunities to add value to the production of cannabis.


But it is the fact of that be legalized to prevent illegal sale? Is that this law does not facilitate the increased consumption by the Uruguayan population?

Those who are opposed to the law have fear that young people can feel more attracted towards this drug now that it will be legal. Therefore, the Government shall draw up prevention plans and will be forbidden advertising and sale to minors under 18. The Regulation determines the creation of a unit for evaluation and monitoring of the implementation and compliance with the law. Moreover this regularization-earned income will serve to fund programs of prevention, rehabilitation and Social Affairs.



Sources (accessed 31/11/2014) (accessed 02/12/2014) (accessed 04/12/2014)