Like Star Trek’s Enterprise, Uruguay dared to boldly go where no country has gone before: legalization of recreational marijuana. Although there are other countries like The Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain that has decriminalized marijuana possession, its transport, distribution and sale still remains illegal in those countries.
The unprecedented legalization of recreational marijuana shall allow private citizens in Uruguay to grow and cultivate ‘the weed’ in their houses. Added to this, people can organize private clubs to collaborate marijuana production. However, only the government can facilitate the sale of marijuana and dictate the price through a network of dispensaries.
To purchase marijuana, Uruguayans must first register with the Ministry of Health. Each customer is allowed to buy 40 grams of marijuana per month. Marijuana price was pegged at $1 per gram so that it can compete with the street price of illegal marijuana that is usually smuggled from Paraguay.
Other restrictions include the illegal use of marijuana during work and driving while high. Violators shall be punished according to severity of their violations. They can be fined, removed from the registry or be banned from keeping weed stashes.
Currently, the Uruguay Government is still building the network of cannabis dispensaries and streamlining their policies on legal marijuana. Although the debate and discussions about the matter still rages, the structure for implementing the ‘weed experiment’ is already secured in place.
A study cites that there is an estimated 120,000 users of cannabis in Uruguay. These marijuana patrons had been buying from underworld and in effect, strengthened the crime families in the region.
By legalizing marijuana, the government of Uruguay aims to wrestle the market from illegal dealers and regulate the use among the citizenry. In some respects, the government wants to protect its citizens from marijuana abuse by allowing them to use it according to their laws.
Newly-elected President Tabaré Vázquez is an assurance that Uruguay will continue with its plan to establish the world’s first government-run marijuana supermall. Vázquez made it clear that there will be strict and close assessment on the effect of the marijuana legalization in their country.
The first two part of the law is already being implemented. First, Marijuana growers are now allowed to cultivate a maximum of six plants in their homes. Second, marijuana growers can start forming ‘cannabis clubs’ with a maximum of 45 members.
After Vázquez had assumed the presidency last March 10, 2014, the Uruguayans are waiting on how their new president will implement the sale and distribution of government-controlled marijuana to registered users.
Whatever will be the result of Uruguay’s great marijuana experiment, it will have a profound impact not only in their country but in the whole world. If it works for them, it may work for other countries as well.