Home > Society, Uncategorized > Uruguay Passes the Dutchie or at Least Takes the First Puff

Uruguay Passes the Dutchie or at Least Takes the First Puff

ÍndiceUruguay’s lower house has voted on a bill which would allow the legalization of marijuana. The government would have control of production, distribution and sale of the product. The bill still has to pass the Senate and be approved by President Mujica – who is in favour of the bill.

Those are the facts but the question is: Will Uruguay (or any nation that makes such a decision) suffer from it, or is it a logical step forward to combating the ever long War on Drugs?

I can only look to Uruguay and think back to America and Brazil – two countries in which I have resided and that have huge problems with drugs. Since in Brazil the real problem is with harder drugs, namely crack, (the police usually turn a blind eye to marijuana if they feel it’s only for recreational use) I will focus first on the United States where legalization of marijuana is always a hot button issue. Should they be looking at Uruguay as a possible blueprint for future drug policies?

On one side we have the hard-nosed anti-drug supporters who think that legalizing is the most surefire way of creating a nation of pot heads. Those that had never even thought of smoking weed would suddenly awaken an inner urge to go to the nearest vendor on a Monday, and blaze themselves into the weekend. And of course it wouldn’t stop there, as their druggie ways would eventually lead them to want to experiment other harder drugs, and the nation would eventually become a lot like a scene from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

On the other side we have the equally hard-nosed drug supporters who believe that the legalizing of marijuana will actually be the best step to ending drug trafficking and– or at least put a considerable dent in it. They think it’s silly to suppose that those who don’t smoke marijuana today would suddenly feel the urge to go to a vendor tomorrow just because they can. Furthermore they champion the notion that keeping illegal marijuana off of the street is the best way to protect people from eventually experimenting harder drugs which are a lot of times sold right along with it. The nation won’t look like a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, although it could slightly resemble a Grateful Dead concert – but everyone always enjoyed themselves at those – so what’s the big deal.

So who’s right? Is marijuana really to be thrown in with crack, cocaine and other blatantly dangerous drugs and kept illegal? Or should we consider that though marijuana certainly does have a mind altering affect, and can be an unhealthy habit if overused, that both legal alcohol and cigarettes have these same negative aspects. Where is the line to be drawn between a hard and soft drug?

Fact is there is no easier answer and instead a lot of things to consider before such drastic changes are made to drug policies, even if the nation’s compass seems to be pointing in another direction in respect to the issue. Some polls show that for the first time since

How bad is it really and can the government do anything to help?

How bad is it really and can the government do anything to help?

the question has been asked, more Americans are in favour of the Federal government staying out of pot smoker’s lives. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57578048/majority-of-americans-favor-legalizing-pot-poll-shows/

Still, drugs are a big problem in America. The war that was started long ago by President Nixon has done little to make things better – some argue that the battle is over and drugs won. Latest figures show that there are 330,000 people incarcerated at the moment for drug crimes. http://consciouslifenews.com/330000-drug-offenders-prison-spends-drug-war-cost-world-hunger/1147052/ Is the country ready to open the doors to a big number of these people, and even if the War on Drugs has not been a good enough answer, is legalizing marijuana one?

Of course when it comes to legalization and criminalization of a controlled substance American had its big experiment already, and learned the hard way from the errors of the prohibition era. There were not only scores of gangs that were created to transport and deal alcohol, but it’s pretty much consensus that alcohol consumption went up. http://druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults1.htm Now with marijuana being treated the same way, we can see an identical trend – more people smoke http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776456 and gangs are formed to facilitate in the sale and distribution of the product.

One could argue that this sort of criminality and consumption is the trend for any illegal substance. I would agree; therefore, the real argument comes down to how dangerous of a substance marijuana is in comparison to the other legal and illegal substances out there for consumption. And if marijuana is considered to be less of a danger than its other illegal counterparts, then of course we move on to the question of whether the government’s decision to “butt out” while “butting in” with regulations will really help anything?

As to the last question I can only offer my sincere thoughts. I’ve always felt that criminalization of any controlled substance tends to leave much to be desired as far as a solution. I had mentioned Brazil at the beginning of the article. It’s a place where I have seen face to face the horrors of drugs. Here crack has become gold. Nearly every major city has a district it calls Cracolãndia (literally Crackland). But the story of one of these “Cracklands” in the mega city of São Paulo of over 20 million inhabitants, is the perfect example of strict police action in place of public health actions working against a resolution to a serious problem.

In São Paulo “there was” a “Crackland” in its historic Luz borough downtown, but I say “there was” because the city government’s solution for cleaning up and revitalizing this historic part of the city was arresting the traffickers and forcing (either directly or indirectly) the addicts out. Public health officials were outraged as they insisted that this was not supposed to be solely a police operation, but at the very least a joint measure with a strong medical force. These addicts began exodus by first moving to a neighboring high end borough. They were quickly ushered out and subsequently made their way to various other points of the city even down to its south side (remembering SP is a mega city so this was a journey that by foot would have taken at least a day or two – I can’t imagine the worst case crack addicts using the metro system but one never knows). The result is that on the surface the operation may have looked like a success, but in truth the problem only moved from one region to another. The truth is evident in reports of people in boroughs that area almost an hour away from downtown by car, who had never run into a addict before, who now have had to share in their first, less than enjoyable, first experiences. Crime rose across the city and areas that used to be family friendly have become occupied by zombie crack addicts.

Clearly I think that the iron fist of the law is not the only way to deal with drug problems, but I have to concede that legalizing marijuana in a country as big as America or Brazil may have unpredictable results. Nevertheless, if it means less people on street corners buying a product that may be laced with something else, or keeping a teenager from being talked into buying some other drug they should really stay away from, it can’t hurt. After all, can we securely say that what we have in place now is really working?
But I also think of the other side. If marijuana is taken out of the game what will drug dealers turn to instead to make their money? Will the ones that were just in the marijuana business be forced to move to the harder drugs? Will the harder drugs become more expensive and fuel more violence for its control. These are also things to consider before any decision is made.

So now it’s up to Uruguay to lead the charge. Nothing is certain, but from the looks of things we may have a historical moment afoot come October. If approved, it will probably take about a year or two for the numbers to come back that can really gauge the efficiency of the new drug policy, but I pray for the best. I feel that this movement by Uruguay’s government is being done with good intention and with sound reasoning. In life, of course, we can’t always count on positive thinking alone to result in positive results, but if it works, I hope that countries like America and Brazil (and others) follow suit, and we can take a cancer out of our society – that cancer being the crimes that normally go along with drug trafficking and the addicts which are created when an unregulated product like marijuana is in the hands of people who don’t know how to utilize it properly.

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