What Uruguay’s dope move means


There is much talk about Uruguay and their move to not just decriminalise cannabis but to move to regulate legally the drug, essentially treating cannabis just like tobacco and alcohol.

Many people wonder just how one small South American country can affect the world.

Uruguay’s bold move does much more than just follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington state, which last November became the first political jurisdictions in the world to approve the legalization of marijuana.

It provides, significantly, a model for how to engage in debate over marijuana policy in a mature and responsible way.  When President Mujica first issued his proposal last June, he made clear that he welcomed vigorous debate over both its merits and the particulars.  International experts were invited from abroad for intensive discussions with people from all walks of civil society and government.  A range of specific proposals were considered, all with an eye toward transforming an illegal industry into a legal one to better protect public safety and health.  Political rhetoric and grandstanding permeated the debate, as would be expected in any vibrant democratic process, but substantive issues dominated. 

The bill passed on Wednesday effectively integrates elements of Colorado’s and Washington’s laws with innovations from Europe and provisions unique to Uruguay.  Adults are permitted to cultivate up to six plants; cooperatives can provide marijuana for a limited number of members; and pharmacies can sell it.  Sales to minors, driving under the influence and all forms of advertising are prohibited.  This new model will be of great interest to advocates and legislators in other countries, and of course in the growing number of U.S. states in which a majority of citizens now favor legalizing marijuana.

Instead of stoners and hippies debating the issue from spurious points of view the issue will move mainstream much like the gay marriage debate. Rational and sensible debate will be then had instead of weirdos with funny names driving around in clapped out buses.

I’ve never met Dakta Green but if he is the face of cannabis legalisation then it isn’t something that I want anything to do with.

What I as an American find most striking about Uruguay’s historic move is the demonstration of political leadership by President Mujica.  In the United States, marijuana policy reform is an issue on which the people lead and the politicians follow.  Colorado and Washington changed their laws through the ballot initiative process, with roughly 55% of voters supporting the reform, while most elected officials sat on the sidelines.  Even today, with a majority of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana, not one U.S. governor or U.S. senator is prepared to publicly support the legalization of marijuana (apart from the governors of Washington and Colorado who now are obliged to implement the new laws in their states).  By contrast, when President Mujica made his proposal, he reportedly did it without consulting any polls or political consultants; he simply listened to respected experts about what the optimal marijuana policy would be – and then said, let’s do it.

Now this would be a circuit breaker policy for any mainstream party or politician to move on.

President Mujica is not the only Latin American leader to demonstrate courage in calling for alternatives to the drug war.  Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala have boldly demanded that legalization, decriminalization and other alternatives to ineffective, costly and destructive prohibitionist drug policies be considered.  More recently, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has catapulted regional discussion of drug policy to an intellectual level unprecedented among multilateral organizations.  But President Mujica’s proposal is unique in changing not just public debate but also actual laws and policies.

You have to say that of prohibition was working we wouldn’t have our courts clogged with cannabis cases would we…people would accept that they can’t have the drug and behave…except they don’t. Prohibition has never worked anywhere in the world ever. Time for alternate approaches.

All this serves as a wake-up call for Europe, which was at the forefront of global drug policy reform in the latter part of the 20th century but has now been leapfrogged by developments in the Americas. Serious proposals for legal regulation of marijuana are proliferating in countries like Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands.  And in Morocco, long one of the world’s leading producers of marijuana, legalization proposals are now being taken seriously by the national government.

So who’s next?  In the U.S., numerous states are likely to legalize marijuana in coming years, with Oregon perhaps first in line.  In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems like a throwback to the drug war fanatics who dominated U.S. drug policy in the 1980s and 1990s, but both opposition parties seem ready to legalize marijuana once they regain power. And I’d keep my eye on the Dutch, who thirty-plus years ago pioneered the legal regulation of retail sales of marijuana through the “coffeeshop” system, and who may now be inspired by Colorado, Washington and Uruguay to fully legalize and regulate the industry.

Could New Zealand become another world leader? This time in cannabis reform.


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  • Polish Pride

    Could New Zealand become another world leader? This time in cannabis reform.
    One can only hope but then I have heard that the only one really holding this up was Peter Dunne who (allegedly) received campaign donations from Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol and then had two conditions for going into coalition with National. One of those conditions was
    No progress on Cannabis law reform.
    Proper well regulated Legalization would be far safer for everyone.

    • Mr_Blobby

      Big Tobacco would be for it, they already have the ability to make it in place, just replace Tobacco with Cannabis.

      • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

        That is true. I never understood the conspiracy crowd who said that big tobacco would view marijuana as its competition. They have all of the infrastructure and distribution mechanisms to profit the most from legalisation.

  • redeye

    “I’ve never met Dakta Green but if he is the face of cannabis
    legalisation then it isn;t something that I want anything to do with.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Too long this debate has been framed by nut cases like him and the stupid greens. In fact I guess a good chunk of the right oppose it simply because of that.
    The irony of it all is it’s normally the left that think they can change attitudes and opinion by enforcement.

    • Richard McGrath

      I wonder how much you really know about Dakta Green. He was once a three piece suit wearing businessman and member of the National Party who used to attend their conferences and present remits. He became disillusioned when he realised the Nats had no interest in promoting personal freedom. He has done considerable jail time and suffered significant financial loss for indulging in his relatively harmless pastime of enjoying cannabis. This country has expended considerable time and money persecuting a man who was a producer and an employer, which is nothing short of disgraceful.

      • redeye

        I’ve seen the documentary based around him. I saw him protest at parliament house and he managed to get the Prime Minister out to talk with him. That conversation made me think he was a bit simple. Key basically just laughed at him.

        Regardless of where he’s from he comes across as just another stoner and not the sort of person you want anywhere near this debate if you want to change the attitudes of those that need their attitude changing.

  • Muzza

    ALCP seem to do more harm than good too. Last election they spent what little television advertising budget they had to harp on about freeing the political prisoners in jail for cannibis offences. Just made them look stupid in my opinion

    • Richard McGrath

      People in jail for cannabis related activity are political prisoners – what crime have they committed, i.e. against whom have they initiated force?

  • Young and Dumb

    You have a very good point on Dakta Green and his lackeys representing Cannabis Law Reform.

    I was formally of the idea that cannabis should be completely legalized with people having the freedom to grow, consume and sell as much as they like. I have been to the Daktory numerous times which undoubtedly was filled with many of Aucklands NORML activists. I can tell you that all of them are complete idiots.

    Sure Dakta Green was once a successful entrepreneur operating on the fringes of the law but now, not so much.

    Many of the people who are associated with cannabis law reform are the very reason that cannabis is illegal in NZ.

    For instance take this idiot –


    He goes by the name of Dakta Worzel and every time I have seen him all he has done is walk around in some grubby sweatpants and shout shit like “legalize it” and what not. He also adds anybody on Facebook who is naive enough to ‘like’ the Daktory page (As my name suggests I did so once)

    After be added by Dakta Worzel I understood why cannabis needs to be regulated. One day he decided to post a status about his recent meeting with his WINZ case worker (of course he is unemployed). In this status he told his case manager that he will not take the job which requires 30 hours of work a week because he is only getting payed $360 as he can be on the benefit and receive around $40-$60 less.
    (I cannot remember the exact figured but it was around this mark)

    He then proceded to argue with other users who said he was out of line by proclaiming that it was his right not to work etc etc.

    Because of situations like this I believe that there needs to be strict controls around cannabis, such as one can only consume if the are employed and not receiving any government assistance.

    I know it will not be easy to enforce these restrictions but maybe a ’employed’ card can be created? Each citizen in NZ is given an employee number and a card that is only active whilst being employed and de-activated when receiving Government assistance. (Somewhat of an opposite of the Community Services Card).

    I know this will open up debate as people without a card could just get their mates to buy for them, but make the penalties for supplying others so harsh that people will not want to risk it. Oh these would also have to be enforced.

    Because as a smoker myself I don’t want to be paying for others to get high, if my tax payer dollars are going to something, I’d prefer for it to be for the greater good of NZ.

    • Richard McGrath

      You’re shooting the messenger rather than reading the message – why not just legalise cannabis for adults? The proponents of cannabis law reform are going to be fringe people anyway – they are breaking the law after all, and ordinary middle class people just don’t do that. It takes people with courage, or with nothing to lose, to make themselves walking targets for our (in)justice system by openly flouting stupid, vicious laws.

      • Young and Dumb

        The problem is that if the messenger is the wrong person the point is made in a different way. Not always with the right impact, vision and image that is required.

  • Col

    My problem, once they try this, some ,and I say some, will go on to try other harmful drugs, it just opens the door, plus medical bills paid by us when they start using the hard stuff.
    It would be good for the Greens and Labour to have Pot available to the people as it keeps them happy, and they can go around singing Be happy be Happy.
    I can see it being used in the House when it is sitting, that would be fucking Funny.

    • Mr_Blobby

      More of a problem now with the ability to lace the marijuana with the likes of P. Not so likely when you buy a sealed packet.

      • Young and Dumb

        People don’t lace cannabis with P, it is a common myth, completely uneconomical

        • James

          Only uneconomical at first – but repeat custom and ability to get the user onto the higher margin drugs makes it an initial “loss-leader”. I’ve had marijuana laced with harder drugs before … but, in my case, I had a decent dealer who told me what was in it and offered it to me as a trial – rather than hiding it until I had to keep coming back to him.

          • NoVictim


          • Young and Dumb

            When you tried it were you addicted?

            Did you get the buzz that you wanted from smoking it?

            Would you ever try it again?

          • James

            Didn’t get addicted – it was just a bit of coke with the dope. Buzz was pretty amazing but I take drugs to chill rather than go hyper so it wasn’t really for me!

        • Richard McGrath

          However it would be a loss leader to get people using P, after which they would be wanting to buy it.

          • Young and Dumb

            It takes more than smoking some laced weed to become addicted to a P.

            Part of a drug addiction is the mental requirement of the substance, if the individual does not know they are consuming it then they will not be addicted to that substance.

            Anybody who buys weed that gives any type of buzz that is different to weed (e.g. P, Heroin or a synthetic cannabinoid) is an idiot if they continue to pursue that particular dealer.

            Stupid is as stupid does

    • Young and Dumb

      At the risk of sounding like one of those activists I’ve just sledged, the gateway drug argument is really limited as the problem is that with weed being illegal it gives individuals a method of trying slightly harder drugs and then rationalising it.

      Firstly since you cannot buy weed over the counter you have to go to a drug dealer, sure when you’re 16-18 your dealer only really sell weed, however after that age you have to introduce yourself to people who are doing this for a career. These people want to make money so they start selling other shit. As a result an individual now has an avenue to purchase harder drugs.

      At this stage harder drugs tend to be pills/capsules (often marketed as MDMA but rarely so) and maybe some hallucinogens such as mushrooms or tabs (again often marketed as LSD buy rarely so). Whether an individual will take the next step is up to them but when one is young it is hard to resist.

      (When i first started smoking I said to myself very naively that I would never touch pills or tabs or anything else because of how bad they were)

      This leads me on to the second problem, once someone has started smoking weed and realise that it is not that bad and actually a very fun thing to do as it hightens enjoyment from sex, television, music you name it. (The biggest problem being the lack of motivation is commonly not realised for a couple years).

      So with this drug being as good as it is an individual is more inclined to keep consuming and continue to break the law. As a result breaking the law become normalised and often a cynical opinion on what is illegal and what is illegal but still ok to day develops.

      Once this cynical opinion towards breaking the law is established and combined with the ability to acquire harder drugs there is a downward spiral that can end at any point.

  • Mr_Blobby

    The answer is to legalize it not decriminalize it.

    Like with Tobacco the excise tax would be more than double the social cost. It would still be Illegal to grow without a license, the quality could be assured, Drug/Drink driving would be illegal.

    The fines and excise tax for growing Tobacco are absolutely draconian compared with Marijuana. As it became more openly available the illegal market would slow down considerably if not die completely. Not many if any grow there own Tobacco.

  • conwaycaptain

    Just think full employment in Hone’s electorate and fields and fields of waving pot plants.
    Metiria Turei could move up there and all the loonies of the Green Taliban

    • tarkwin

      We’ve got enough problems up here without importing those tree hugging losers.

    • kehua

      The `full employment ` would be in hundredsif not thousands` of Dope Case Officers, counting if you have more than 6 plants, checking out the Co-operatives , keeping tabs on pharmicies etc…. can you image the number of beauocrats engaged in this under not only a National, but particularly a Labour/Green Government

      • Polish Pride

        It need be no different than regulation in place for Alcohol and could be looked after by the same groups.

        • kehua

          Yeah right, when was the last time anyone came and checked out your liquor supply at home?

    • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

      Haha, then they’d all become economically self-sufficient and start voting National.

  • Anonymouse Coward

    The long suffering Kiwi share holders of Farming Systems Uruguay(NZX:FSU) sold out too soon. They could have made a bit of green, in both the herbal and money senses

    • Anonymouse Coward

      Correction: The NZX code for Farming systems was NZS. Not that it really matter as it is now delisted.