Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The New Allure of Uruguay: Legalization of Marijuana (reposted from original location)

article from December 28, 2013
By Jamie Douglas

The month of December has seen this little country, lodged between the butt cheeks of its giant neighbors Brazil and Argentina, take a leap of faith by legalizing the cultivation and purchase of cannabis legal (consumption was already legal).

Deliberations have been ongoing since President José “Pepe” Mujica asked for legalization of marijuana in 2012, and this in spite of neither him nor his wife, Senator Lucía Topolansky, being smokers of the weed.

And so it was that on December 10, 2013, the Senate voted 16 to 13 to create a legal marketplace for marijuana. On December 23, 2013, the president signed the bill, also declaring that from that moment, Uruguayan citizens were free to cultivate up to six plants per household.

Within 120 days, the nation’s drug control agency will have to write and implement regulations governing the cultivation, sale, and all aspects thereof. It is already understood that all participants will have to be licensed residents or citizens of the nation, with 40 grams allotted per legal person per month.

The opposition parties of course immediately decried the new law, using age-old clichés regarding  the easy access children will now have to this “dangerous gateway drug” – the same tired argument that has been used in the US´s failed War on Drugs which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, ruined millions of others and created an organized crime monster that operates their own fleet of jet aircraft, ships and submarines, reaping billions in profits and, in the US´s own neighbor, Mexico, killing any opposing gangs by the thousands in the most gruesome manner imaginable.

Marijuana is nothing new to Uruguay. Paraguay, one of the member states of the faltering MERCOSUR alliance, has been one of the world´s largest cultivators of cannabis for quite a while now, and what it lacks in quality (everything) it makes up in quantity. Unfortunately, it is compressed with massive hydraulic machines and impregnated with everything from cow urine to odor-masking chemicals, which end up in consumers´ lungs.

It is the adulteration of the weed that causes harm, not the product itself. So one might deduce that the legalization of the sale and consumption of cannabis in South America will result in a healthier experience for the user.

Amsterdam-like narco-tourism

In my opinion, the pseudo-legalization of cannabis in Amsterdam was a total failure because the social experiment was never properly codified, drawing losers from around the planet like a magnet. Looking the other way not only meant that cannabis was tolerated, but along with it, every other conceivable form of drug, from heroin to methamphetamine. Having cafés dispense hashish and marijuana also provided adequate fodder for drug syndicates to establish a foothold, something the Dutch citizens were not prepared for. But in the 40 plus years since the social experiment began, it has virtually become the genie that got out of the bottle.

The suggested laws governing the sale and consumption to foreigners will limit their participation in the Uruguayan cannabis subculture to what tourist already do now: buy from strangers on the street, in all likelihood ending up with the dark brown cow-piss-stained garbage they have been getting by way of Paraguay. The lush, green local nuggets will be reserved for legitimate license holders, some of whom, no doubt, will try to cash in on selling it at premium prices on the black market.

If you are considering a trip to get high, I recommend states like Colorado, where you not only have legal weed, but also incredible scenery to enjoy while you have your smoke and fall into a dream. With the high airfare to get to Montevideo from North America, you can get to Colorado and buy a bunch of really good weed for that “Rocky Mountain High!”

Cannabis legalization in Uruguay did not become a reality to boost tourism. That sector is doing quite well, in spite of the fact that there is rather little to see and do, other than bathing in freezing waters and enjoying the sand dunes along the Atlantic coast from the Miami Beach of South America, Punta del Este, to the Brazilian Border in Chuy.

Jamie Douglas

[Image via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.