Lessons Learned in Uruguay after One Year of “Legal” Marijuana

  • The Latin American country marked one year since it decided to legalise the production and sale of marijuana, an eagerly-awaited measure from which nearly 1,300 growers have already benefitted.

In December of 2013 Uruguay approved legislation that regulated the production, commercialization, possession and use, both recreational and medicinal, of marijuana, the law taking effect in May of 2014. The Latin American nation thus became the world's first to totally legalise the sale and cultivation of marijuana.

In spite of the new presidential administration in Uruguay (with Tabaré Vázquez succeeding José Mujica in office) the law was left intact, and the results could not be more positive: according to data from the country's Junta Nacional de Drogas [National Drug Board], since the registry was opened up for marijuana growers almost 1,300 people have signed up. At this time citizens can grow up to six plants at home. And the data lists the registration of some 500 marijuana clubs.

The numbers demonstrate not only that legalization was a measure supported by Uruguay's citizens, but also that it has had a positive effect on tourism: Montevideo's spa centres are teeming with tourists drawn by the ease with which marijuana can be consumed.

Uruguay can also be proud of the fact that cannabis consumption among its young people has barely risen, despite the new law. According to a report by Uruguay's National Drug Observatory, 17% of young people ages 13-17 consumed marijuana from 2013 - 2014, up just 5% from 2011 data. In other words, the legalisation of cannabis, in the end, does not have a negative effect on young people's health.

Thanks to the precedent in Uruguay, other Latin American countries have begun to consider legalization. Chile now permits the growing of marijuana for therapeutic purposes, and an Argentine bill proposes to legalise the personal use of marijuana.


With information from El Tempos.


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