Cannabis in Uruguay

Graffiti in Montevideo

Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs in Uruguay.[1] Possession for personal use is not penalized and the law does not specify quantity for "personal amount".[2] In August 2014, Uruguay legalized growing up to six plants at home, as well as the formation of growing clubs, a state-controlled marijuana dispensary regime, and the creation of a Cannabis regulatory institute (IRCA in Spanish). In October 2014 the Government began registering growers' clubs, allowed in turn to grow a maximum of 99 cannabis plants annually. As of 2015, the marijuana dispensary business (including medical use) has not been implemented, while as of August 2015, there were 2743 registered personal growers.[3][4][5]


Uruguay has never criminalized personal possession of drugs, and a 1974 law allowed judges to determine whether a given case of possession was personal or commercial. This law was later updated in 1998.[6]

Proposal for legalization

In June 2012, the Uruguayan government, under President Mujica, announced plans to legalise state-fix sales of cannabis in order to fight drug-related crimes and health issues. The government stated that they would ask global leaders to do the same.[7] Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa praised the decision as "courageous".[8]

The law intends to reduce the profit that drug trafficking creates for organized crime, as well as reducing the drug-related violence and the social problems associated with it.[9] Uruguay has one of the lowest murder rates in the region (though by some estimates, crime was slightly increasing in 2013).[10][11]

Mujica's plan would allow users to cultivate the plant for non-commercial uses and grant licenses to professional farmers for larger scale production. The plan includes a system of; user registry, taxation, and quality control; all coordinated through the existing agency that monitors tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals.[12] He estimated that with 70,000 users, the country will have to produce more than 5,000 pounds each month.[13] He also stated: "Uruguay wants to make a 'contribution to humanity' by legalising marijuana but will backtrack if the 'experiment' goes awry".[14]

On 31 July 2013, the House of Representatives passed the bill to legalize and regulate the production and sale of cannabis and sent it to the country's Senate.[15][16] The bill was approved by 50 affirmative votes (the minimum required) with all Deputies from the ruling Broad Front voting in favor and all the other Deputies voting against it.[17] The bill was passed by the Senate's Health Commission on 26 November and was expected to be voted by the full Senate since November 2013.[18]

The new law was accepted in the Senate on 10 December 2013 by a 16–13 vote.[19] Julio Calzada, Secretary-General of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, explained in a December 2013 interview that the government will be responsible for regulating the production side of the process: "Companies can get a license to cultivate if they meet all the criteria. However, this won’t be a free market. The government will control the entire production and determine the price, quality, and maximum production volume."[20] People will be allowed to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 oz) of cannabis from the Uruguayan government each month. Users have to be 18 or older and be registered in a national database to track their consumption. Cultivators are allowed to grow up to 6 crops at their homes each year and shall not surpass 480 grams (17 oz). Registered smoking clubs will be allowed to grow 99 plants annually. Buying cannabis will be prohibited to foreigners[21] and it will be illegal to move it across international borders.[22]

Implementation of the new law postponed

In July 2014 president José Mujica announced that the implementation of the law is postponed to 2015, "there are practical difficulties". Authorities will grow all the cannabis that can be sold legally. Concentration of THC shall be 15% or lower.[23]

In August 2014, an unpopular opposition presidential candidate claimed that the new law was unworkable and would never be applied.[24]

Public opinion

According to 2012-2013 polls by Equipos Mori, Cifra and Factum, 58-66% of Uruguayans oppose legalizing the sale of marijuana while 24-29% support it.[25][26]

See also


  1. World Drug Report 2011. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Cannabis stats are from Chapter Consumption: Annual prevalence of Cannabis, p. 217. "Sources: Annual Reports Questionnaires, Academic Researches, Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents (CICAD), Government Reports, European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports (INCSR)."
  2. "Cannabis South American laws". March 1995.
  3. "Uruguay cannabis growers' clubs: Registration begins". BBC News. 31 October 2014.
  4. "Uruguay ya tiene registrados a 2.743 cultivadores de marihuana". infobae. AP. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  5. "Uruguay busca producir marihuana que pueda estar "bien identificada"". EFE. NoticiasSin. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  6. Beatriz Caiuby Labate; Clancy Cavnar (25 March 2014). Prohibition, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights: Regulating Traditional Drug Use. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 307–. ISBN 978-3-642-40957-8.
  7. "Uruguay government aims to legalise marijuana". BBC. 21 June 2012.
  8. "Vargas Llosa praises Uruguayan decision to legalize marihuana" (in Spanish). LR21. 2 July 2012.
  9. Casey, Nicholas (10 December 2013). "Uruguay Legalizes Pot, Recasting Drug War". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  10. Combs, Peter (21 August 2013). "Uruguay's marijuana experiment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  11. Ramsey, Geoffrey (25 July 2013). "Uruguay's Marijuana Bill and Organized Crime". InSight Crime. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  12. "Marijuana in the Americas: Legalize Me, Decriminalize Me, Prohibit Me". Revolución Pan Americana. 30 July 2012.
  13. Cave, Damien (30 July 2012). "Uruguay Considers Legalizing Marijuana to Stop Traffickers". The New York Times.
  14. "Uruguay considers legalising marijuana as 'experiment', says President Jose Mujica". 7 August 2013.
  15. "Uruguay raises its hands to vote" (in Spanish). Brecha. 3 August 2013.
  16. "The experiment: Another blow against prohibition". The Economist. 1 August 2013.
  17. "Marihuana: Frente Amplio insiste en votar la ley antes de fin de año". El País (in Spanish). 6 November 2013.
  18. (Spanish) El País. Comisión del Senado aprobó proyecto sobre regulación de la marihuana. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  19. Llambias, Felipe (11 December 2013). "Uruguay becomes first country to legalize marijuana trade". Reuters. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  20. Jack Davies and Jan De Deken (15 December 2013). "The Architect of Uruguay's Marijuana Legalization Speaks Out". Reason Foundation. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  21. "Can foreigners buy marijuana in Uruguay?". Guru'guay. 24 November 2014.
  22. Miroff, Nick (10 December 2013). "Uruguay votes to legalize marijuana". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  23. Uruguay marijuana sales delayed until 2015, Daly News,July/10/2014
  24. LEONARDO HABERKORN: Uruguayan Pot Marketplace May Go up in Smoke, Associated Press, Aug 1, 2014
  25. Las dudas y contradicciones de la sociedad sobre la legalización de la marihuana - Factum, 4 October 2013
  26. El 74% de los uruguayos está a favor de la venta de marihuana con fines medicinales - El Observador, 5 December 2013
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