Uruguay’s Marijuana Law Turns Pharmacists Into Dealers

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — The rules are a bit of a buzzkill. Drug users must officially register with the government. Machines will scan buyers’ fingerprints at every purchase, and there are strict quotas to prevent overindulgence.

But when Uruguay’s marijuana legalization law takes full effect on Wednesday, getting high will take a simple visit to the pharmacy.

As American states legalize marijuana and governments in the hemisphere rethink the fight against drugs, Uruguay is taking a significant step further: It is the first nation in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

“The great responsibility we have in Uruguay is to show the world that this system of freedom with regulation works better than prohibition,” said Eduardo Blasina, the founder of the Montevideo Cannabis Museum.

The final stage of Uruguay’s marijuana law comes as voters, lawmakers and courts across the Americas are increasingly leaning toward regulation and away from prohibition. Supporters of the shift say this tiny South American nation, which has low crime, a high standard of living and political stability, is now an ideal laboratory for what the future of drug policy in the region could look like.

Continue reading the main story

“This follows from increasing momentum by leaders in Latin America in calling for alternatives to the war on drugs,” said Hannah Hetzer, an analyst at the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors decriminalization. “What’s so important about this is it takes a debate about the need for alternatives and provides an actual proposal for an actual policy.”

But the law has been contentious for many Uruguayans. The thorniest part of it — establishing a system for the state-controlled production and sale of marijuana — took years to work out. Sales at pharmacies start on Wednesday.

Read more...