Target: Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay
Goal: Commend the president of Uruguay for reducing crime and increasing consumer safety by legalizing marijuana cultivation.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica deserves praise for proposing to decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana. It is the best way to dismantle underground criminal networks that have arisen to handle illegal sales, and to allow the government to promote positive health outcomes for users by inspecting stock, offering treatment help for addicts, and issuing guidelines for safe consumption.
Uruguay’s House of Representatives already passed the proposed bill, and it is expected to also win passage in the Senate. Mujica has rightly judged that in a country where drug overdose deaths are a statistical blip, 3 or 4 last year, there was no benefit to criminalizing producers. Rather, the bigger marijuana-related threat was the related criminal activity that resulted in 80 deaths during the same period. In order to combat drug trafficking and the violence that it has brought about, he has deemed it worthwhile to take the marijuana business out of the hands of drug dealers by making the substance available legally.
Permitting ordinary citizens to cultivate cannabis plants, whose dried particles will be sold at pharmacies, means police won’t have to dedicate manpower and resources to breaking into private growers’ homes to arrest them and confiscate their crop. The president believes that it is wise to put an end to the years-long struggle between the police and underground cannabis producers. The new law will authorize both large-scale cultivation on cannabis farms but also personal cultivation on a smaller scale limited to six plants per household.
Other than reducing underground crime, the legislation has another goal in mind — that of providing a more effective method of dealing with consumption abuse. Legal sales of the substance will allow the government to bring out addictions into the public realm to be dealt with as a health issue. In legal systems where cultivation is criminalized, marijuana purchases tend to be cloaked in a veil of secrecy due to their illegal nature. Wishing to avoid disclosing the source of their purchase, perhaps for fear of suffering retribution at the hands of their criminal sellers, some consumers are not comfortable coming forward and sharing their addiction problem. Once the fear of denouncing their sellers vanishes, they can feel free to seek treatment. Mujica said that ‘the advantage [of Uruguay’s legalization policy] is that we can identify who is consuming. If we identify consumers, we can help them. If we criminalize them and keep them underground, we steer them towards drug dealers and wash our hands of responsibility.’
The new law intends not only to help those already suffering from addiction, but also to prevent addictions from occurring in the first place. To make sure that they don’t abuse the drug, pharmacies would educate their customers on safe consumption practices by setting a monthly purchase limit and and responding with valuable information to questions and concerns. (As it currently stands, a provision of the bill would allow consumers to purchase a maximum of 30 grams of marijuana per month.)
A consumer of a potentially addictive substance is best served by being offered guidance on safe consumption rather than by purchasing from illegal and often criminal growers where no such guidance is available. Most importantly, the government’s regulation of the growing process along with the inspection of the plant particles will guarantee customers access to a quality stock of the drug. That will eliminate the serious health risks consumers are confronted with when purchasing impure marijuana from an unregulated market.
Sign this petition to praise the Uruguayan president for striving to achieve the dual objectives of reducing violence related to underground sales of marijuana, and promoting positive health outcomes for the drug’s consumers.
Dear Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay
We would like to praise you for realizing that criminalizing marijuana cultivation has more negative than positive consequences. A network of illicit growers and sellers engaged in violence, whose suppression requires the use of police resources better spent on more important matters, is not something worth maintaining just to prevent a statistically insignificant number of overdose deaths.
Other than freeing the hands of the police and discouraging criminality, legalizing marijuana cultivation also has the additional benefit of bringing the problem of addiction into the open where it can be dealt with medically. With all the stigma of a purchase from an illegal dealer gone, users with an addiction problem could simply seek medical help in any medical institution without fear of informing on criminal sellers who might target them for revenge.
Furthermore, the new law would help consumers avoid health problems by verifying the quality of the stock, setting monthly purchase limits so that addiction does not arise, and enabling pharmacists to offer advice on safe consumption as is the standard practice with any legal medication.
Uruguay’s move will hopefully convince other countries considering similar legislation that mildly harmful drugs are best offered legally on the market, because the criminalization of growers creates additional crime and consumer safety issues that are best addressed once the product is no longer an underground phenomenon.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Stan Dalone via Flickr