Uruguay becomes first country to legalize the sale of marijuana
Leaders take action in hopes of quelling drug cartels
The South American nation of Uruguay will take a momentous social experiment to its logical extreme by legalizing the sale of marijuana. The action will allow the cultivation, sale and usage of marijuana. Senators gave the government-sponsored bill their final approval after 12 hours of debate.
Hailed as a huge victory for the nation marijuana smoking community, hundreds of young people gathered outside Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote on a giant screen.
The Uruguayan government is doing so in the hopes that this will help tackle drug cartels. Critics say the law will only make the drug more accessible to those who would otherwise not try it - and open the pathway to illegal drugs.
Hailed as a huge victory for the nation marijuana smoking community, hundreds of young people gathered outside Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote on a giant screen. Many passed around joints with friends. Playing reggae music, some waved marijuana leaves in the open party atmosphere.
There was an atmosphere of celebration inside the Senate as dozens of supporters of President Mujica followed the nearly 14 hours of the debate.
Many have misgivings. Senator Pedro Bordaberry of the conservative Red Party says his country should not become a "guinea pig for Mr. Mujica's experiment.
"We used to be known for our excellent meat and football, now the world is watching us because of our marijuana."
Others viewed it as an inevitability. Presenting the bill to fellow senators, Roberto Conde said it was an unavoidable response given that the "war" against drugs had failed. "We have the duty as the state to give a specific answer to an open territory, small and non-producing," Conde said. He pointed out that Uruguay's borders were used by cartels to smuggle drugs into neighboring countries.
Many senators also spoke out against the bill, before it went before a 16 to 13 votes this week.
Opposition member Alfredo Solari argued that Uruguay should not "experiment" on its people. "This project envisages a social engineering experiment and respects none of the ethic safeguards of experimentation on human beings, and these are important in the case of a substance like marijuana, which causes damage to human beings," Senator Solari told reporters.
The decision has drawn international criticism. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned the law would "be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug treaties to which Uruguay is party."
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