Just one Senate vote stands between President Mujica and ending marijuana prohibition in Uruguay. In July the bill passed the house, last week it passed a Senate committee, and soon it is expected to pass a vote in the full Uruguayan Senate. Now, President Mujica is turning his attention outside of his country, and is asking the rest of the world to help him make the law reality.
“We ask the world to help us create this experience,” Mujica told A Folha de São Paulo during an interview at his farm outside Montevideo. “It will allow us to adopt a socio-political experiment to address the serious problem of drug trafficking…the effect of the drug traffic is worse than the drug.”
Uruguay has faced resistance and criticism for its plan to end marijuana prohibition, particularly from Brazil and the United States, who have the two largest illicit drug markets in the hemisphere. The US State Department has said that Uruguay would be violating the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 by allowing marijuana use, possession, and distribution.
Sound familiar? It should, because it is the same convention that the UN accused the US of violating when Washington and Colorado passed laws to regulate adult marijuana use. Attorney General Eric Holder held that individual states were not bound by the international agreement, and allowed Washington and Colorado to proceed with their laws. Now the US is using the same convention to pressure Uruguay to maintain its marijuana prohibition. But, luckily for Uruguay, President Mujica is not easily discouraged.
“There’s always going to be pressure,” Mujica said. “There’s an apparatus in the world that lives by repressing, and it costs a lot of money.”
Himself famous for his austere lifestyle, Mujica said he didn’t care for marijuana, describing the soft drug as a “vice.” But he added that his intention is to regulate an illicit market that already exists. “The repressive path has failed,” Mujica said.