Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

Uruguay legalises cannabis, redefines many rules

Los Angeles City Council Votes To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries



After a tedious, two-year-long battle, which caught the attention of all the other nations of the world, the country of Uruguay finally voted in favour of legal cannabis back in December 2013.

There was much speculation in regard to how exactly the Uruguayan government would tackle this subject. A few basics of the project were communicated to the press, and confirmed months later by President Mujica: the government would monitor everything in terms of import, export, cultivation, harvest, production, acquisition, storage, marketing and distribution of cannabis and its derivatives.

The principal goal of President “Pepe” Mujica with this bill is to find a sustainable solution to the failed war on drugs conducted by most countries. The current cannabis landscape, based in majority on a black market fed by drug lords, is a delicate societal topic, as it creates many issues in terms of Public Health and criminality.
This is why the Uruguayan decision to put the cannabis topic in the hands of their government was first received with scepticism, as a mishandled effort in this direction could very well produce the opposite result.

Yet, Uruguay managed to surprise again, pre-announcing rules and guidelines that seemed powerful enough to quickly make the national black market irrelevant. And finally, in May 2014, the country completed its final decree, consisting of 104 articles, each dealing with a different aspect of the cannabis market.

In terms of cost, the available strains should range between 20 and 22 Uruguayan pesos per gram (NIS 3.01 – 3.31 / USD 0.8 – 0.9), a more than competitive price which should definitely impact illegal markets. The specific strains selected, which are not yet known, will be grown by private companies to be chosen by Mujica’s government. Six licences will be issued and the resulting, regular harvests should be enough to provide for the entire country, according to Julio Cazada, Secretary-General for the Uruguayan National Assembly on Drugs.

Uruguayan citizens will be able to purchase 10 grams of cannabis per week. According to the prices announced, this would equal €35 for 40 grams per month, per person. These citizens, if they choose to purchase cannabis legally, will be able to do so in safe conditions; not only should the products’ quality be optimal, albeit limited in terms of THC levels (15% maximum), their privacy will be protected by the government.

This item was an important one in the making of the final decree. Indeed, many cannabis users, especially considering the current legal state of cannabis in most places, would refuse to see their personal information registered in any kind of governmental database. This is why the method chosen by Uruguay includes users being registered in the IRCA (Instituto de Regulación y Control del Cannabis /Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis), although not by their contact information or fingerprints. The identification will occur through an algorithm which, while based on fingerprints, does not store the information registered. Users will therefore be unidentifiable, even though an anonymous profile of their purchases will be created for statistics and Public Health purposes.

But beyond the retail aspect of cannabis, other considerations have been included in the decree, including the matter of individuals growing cannabis in the privacy of their homes. The good news for cannabis gardeners is that the country will allow personal growing, with up to six cannabis plants per person. The Cannabis Social Club context has also been addressed, with a limit fixed between 15 and 45 members, with a maximum of 99 growing plants.

In short, President Mujica’s final decree does not leave any room for guesswork. And while each possible aspect is dissected and duly covered, the overall document constitutes a somewhat generous, citizen-friendly set of rules. For instance, most recently, article 42 of said decree was under scrutiny, as it deals with being under the influence of cannabis in the workplace. It turns out that Mujica’s law protects workers wishing to partake in the plant during business hours, as long as the consumption part happens outside of their workplace, and as long as the resulting state does not impact professional duties.

This is most definitely tremendous progress for cannabis activism as a whole. Medicinal cannabis is generally regarded in a different manner than recreational consumption – with reason – and the Uruguay experiment could contribute to shedding a different light on the multi-purpose plant and its “entertaining” side.

Source: Sylent Jay




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