With just the votes of the governing Broad Front left-wing coalition, and after 12 hours of intense debate, the Uruguayan Senate has passed a bill legalizing marijuana. The bill to regulate and commercialize marijuana was approved at 22:38 on Tuesday 10th December, 2013.
The decision has put Uruguay on the front pages of international news media following the session with great interest. Now, all that remains is to craft regulations and put the proposed bill into force. A four month period has been allowed for this process.
At a grassroots level, the parliamentary decision has made waves and stirred up opinion. Among the opposition's arguments given in the Senate are the difficulties in ensuring compliance with the law, and the argument that it isn't a valid strategy in the battle against drug trafficking. The opposition also suggested that, in contrast to the government's position on the subject, the law will actually encourage drug use.
Uruguayan pharmacies, who will be in charge of marijuana sales for medicinal use, are now involved in an intense controversy [es] in which some wish to sell the drug while others do not.
The UN, for its part, has noted that the Uruguayan bill to legalize marijuana violates international treaties that the country has signed. In addition, the Psychiatric Society of Uruguay has warned [es] about the consequences of using marijuana and its rising popularity among youths. Psychiatrists also told newspaper El País that the drug plays a role in school drop-out rates.
According to information collected by Infobae [es], Uruguay's president, José Mujica, has said that he hopes Uruguay will be “lend a hand and that we all learn together, because the idea isn't to establish Uruguay as the land of free marijuana. No. No. That's not what this is about. This is a plague, just like cigarettes are a plague. You'll be offered a legal portion and if you abuse it, you'll be registered and attended to medically.”
Internationally, the bill has generated both expectations and doubts, as the world has observed the events with interest and expressed concerns following the decision.
Para la seguridad y salud marihuana,para la libertad ley de medios. Para la educación nada.- Las mayorías utilizadas para cualquier cosa. JL
— Jorge Larrañaga (@jorgewlarranaga) diciembre 11, 2013
For security and health; marijuana, for freedom; a new media law. For education; nothing. The majority is used for whatever purpose.
The user @charruasomos, on the other hand, has defended the bill:
@NicoleOrtizCh pues a mi me parece un GRAN AVANCE Y SACAR a los narcotraficantes del medio. Uruguay es un pais de no rehuir a los problemas
— charruasomos (@charruasomos) December 11, 2013
[In response to @NicoleOrtizCh's tweet] [The world's gone crazy, they legalize marijuana en Uruguay. Where are we headed?]
@NicoleOrtizCh Well, to me it seems like a GREAT STEP FORWARD and takes drug traffickers out of the picture. Uruguay's not a country that runs away from its problems.
The Paraguayan television presenter, Lucía Sapena (@LuSapena), complained about international confusion about their two nations:
Ya son 3 amigos extranjeros a los que tuve que explicar que donde se vende marihuana legal es en Uruguay y no Paraguay!Gente que se confunde
— Lucía Sapena (@LuSapena) diciembre 11, 2013
I've now had to explain to three foreign friends that Uruguay is where they sell marijuana legally, and not Paraguay! Confused people.
The Venezuelan Yusnay Bleque (@yusnayb) expressed her thoughts on the bill:
Uruguay se convierte en el primer país del mundo en legalizar la marihuana. Que barbaridad. No piensan en la salud de los ciudadanos
— yusnay bleque (@yusnayb) diciembre 11, 2013
Uruguay becomes the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Just shocking. They don't think about people's health.
The Argentinian activist Alex Freyre (@AlexFreyre) compared the bill with Argentina's laws:
La marihuana NO ES INOCUA, por eso HAY QUE REGULARLA. La actual ley argentina 23737 no sirve y alienta al narcotráfico.
— Alex Freyre (@AlexFreyre) diciembre 11, 2013
Marijuana ISN'T HARMLESS, so IT HAS TO BE REGULATED. The current Argentinian law 23737 is useless and encourages drug trafficking.
Rubèn Jorge Castro (@elojodelciudada) tweeted about moves to legalize marijuana and same sex marriage:
Minoria impuso Matrimonio Gay Minoria impuso Marihuana mientras eso sucede se distraen enormes esfuerzos la Educacion se Cae +iguales+burros
— Rubèn Jorge Castro ® (@elojodelciudada) diciembre 11, 2013
The minority imposed same sex marriage on us, the minority imposed [the] marijuana [bill] on us, and while that happens, they become distracted and education [reform] falls to pieces. More equal. More stupid.
On the other hand, in Luis Alberto Borsari‘s opinion, the same sex marriage act, legalization of abortion, and now, the legal production and distribution of marijuana are causes of pride. In his blog [es] he writes that:
cuando nuestros hijos y nietos estudien todo esto en sus Libros de Historia, los imagino sacando pecho por lo hecho hoy, o cantando “Uruguay es el mejor País…”
I imagine our children and grandchildren all puffed up with pride as they study today's events in their history books, or singing “Uruguay's the best…”