A bill to outright legalize cannabis in Uruguay is starting to see action. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the Uruguayan House of Representatives is set to vote on a legalization bill this summer - likely tomorrow.
The bill would still have to be approved by the Uruguayan senate and signed by President José Mujica before becoming law. Thankfully, the legalization idea came straight from Mujica's office and his Frente Amplio party has majorities in both chambers of the legislature. If passed, Uruguayans over the age of 18 would be able to buy just under a half-ounce of cannabis per month at a government-regulated shop.
In short: it almost looks like a lock so long as lawmakers vote along party lines. Unfortunately, there are still holdouts and Uruguayan newspaper El Observador says that only 49 legislators have pledged their support out of the 50 needed for a majority to move the bill forward. The holdout is currently representative Darío Pérez, though the paper says that José Carlos Cardoso from the opposing political party is in favor of the bill but is hesitant to vote against his party.
The proposal was first introduced last June to help end local crime and corruption that surrounds the illegal drug trade. Since then, it has grown into a national campaign complete with TV advertisements. According to DPA, the ads feature a mother, doctor and a lawyer talking about the benefits of cannabis legalization.
Uruguay's legalization proposal has been applauded by leaders in several Latin American countries including Mexico and Brazil, as well as by more than 100 organizations from around the globe.
"Two years ago, in my capacity as chairman of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, I made a public call for the decriminalization of drug use and for experimentation with models of legal regulation," former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso wrote in July. "I and my colleagues did so recognizing that drug prohibition had failed on many levels. For too long, it has represented a waste of precious government resources, which has had few benefits for public safety and health. We encouraged experimentation with legal regulation because we believe it will undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard health and security. For this reason, I believe the current proposal to regulate marijuana in Uruguay is worthy of serious consideration."
Interestingly, despite Mujica's support for cannabis legalization he says he's never even tried it.
According to ABC News, the bill could have passed last December but polling in the country showed that citizens weren't necessarily in favor. At the time, Mujica told his party to not vote on the issue and to respect that "support has to come from the streets".