Why the First Country to Legalize Marijuana Might Give Up

The goal of the law is to remove a huge source of revenue from violent drug gangs, which the government blames for a recent rise in crime. Uruguay’s homicide rate increased by 21 percent and violent robbery rate spiked by 250 percent over the past 13 years, according to the Associated Press.

Drug policy experts always questioned whether Uruguay’s plan would actually cripple criminal organizations. Although it’s likely gangs wouldn’t be able to compete with the prices in Uruguay’s tightly regulated but cheaper marijuana market, the criminal groups could fall back on trafficking harder drugs and other illicit activities, such as gun selling and extortion, to make up for lost profits.

Still, there was little dispute that criminal organizations would at least be weakened by the loss of marijuana revenue. John Walsh, leading drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, argued, “Even if it doesn’t eradicate the illegal market, but it shrinks the market significantly, that’s in and of itself an important outcome.”

Now, the legalization scheme isn’t popular and could collapse under political opposition. The most recent survey from polling firm Cifra found only 27 percent of Uruguayans approve of the marijuana legalization law and 64 percent oppose it.

– Read the entire article at Vox.