World

Uruguay Mulls Over Legal Government Marijuana Dealing

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 25:  Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously voted to ban storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and to order them to close or face legal action. The council also voted to instruct staff to draw up a separate ordinance for consideration in about three months that might allow dispensaries that existed before a 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries to continue to operate. It is estimated that Los Angeles has about one thousand such facilities. The ban does not prevent patients or cooperatives of two or three people to grow their own in small amounts. Californians voted to legalize medical cannabis use in 1996, clashing with federal drug laws. The state Supreme Court is expected to consider ruling on whether cities can regulate and ban dispensaries.    (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 25: Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously voted to ban storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and to order them to close or face legal action. The council also voted to instruct staff to draw up a separate ordinance for consideration in about three months that might allow dispensaries that existed before a 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries to continue to operate. It is estimated that Los Angeles has about one thousand such facilities. The ban does not prevent patients or cooperatives of two or three people to grow their own in small amounts. Californians voted to legalize medical cannabis use in 1996, clashing with federal drug laws. The state Supreme Court is expected to consider ruling on whether cities can regulate and ban dispensaries. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

The plan to legalize the sale of marijuana by the government has been sent to Uruguay's Congress, but its fate is anything but certain.

President José Mujica's entire Cabinet signed onto the proposed law, which aims to take over an illegal marijuana trafficking business estimated to be worth $30 million to $40 million a year.

The law would have government control marijuana imports, production, sale and distribution, creating a legal market for people to get pot without turning to riskier illegal drugs. The text submitted to Congress on Wednesday declares that the drug war is a failure and that marijuana is only mildly addictive, unlike "cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and psychotropic drugs."

But lawmakers are divided on the idea, even within Mujica's Broad Front coalition of leftist parties and social groups.

Mujica has said he'll push the plan only if it gets at least 60 percent support in polls. An official in the president's press office, speaking on condition of anonymity according to department policy, said the bill isn't expected to advance quickly.

The text says the project's goals include "the normalization and full social acceptance of marijuana use" so that consumers aren't "stigmatized, nor treated as criminals." Instead, it proposes education about the risks of marijuana use. The presidency's website said Thursday that a National Drug Council would organize meetings to "facilitate reflection" on this point.

The text sent to Congress added that "marijuana has been for many years the most-consumed illegal substance" in Uruguay, and "has an important level of legitimacy in Uruguayan society." It also cited precedents for various levels of decriminalization of marijuana possession in the Netherlands, Australia, Spain and several U.S. states.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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