Uruguay Takes ‘War On Drugs’ In New Direction: The State as Dealer

Uruguay has long been at the vanguard of social reform in Latin America. Today, it is on the verge of passing into law one of its most radical ideas yet.

The Broad Front — the center-left coalition that holds power — is proposing a state monopoly over the production and distribution of marijuana, making Uruguay the first national government to sell cannabis directly to citizens. The government says the measure is necessary to combat rising drug-related crime, decrease health risks for users, and counter ineffective US policies on drugs. But within Uruguay, interest groups have labeled the legislation totalitarian, while some international bodies argue it breaches global conventions.

“We’re putting this forward as international policy,” says Sebastian Sabini, president of the parliamentary commission created to debate the bill. “The war on drugs has failed. There are more consumers and more violence.”

“Uruguay is opening up a new path,” he says.

Uruguay is often overshadowed by the far larger economies of its neighbors Brazil and Argentina. But the country has made a name for itself with a long history of pushing the envelope on social issues.

In 1918, Uruguay became one of the first countries in the region to officially separate the state from the Roman Catholic Church. It implemented South America’s oldest mandatory pension system in 1896, and a bill to decriminalize abortion is expected to pass later this year.

“The bill is there to resolve Uruguay’s problems,” said Mujica. “We don’t want drug tourism.”

– Read the entire article at The Christian Science Monitor.

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