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Countries mull over marijuana legalization after Uruguay ruling

The marijuana legalization experiments underway in Washington state, Colorado and Uruguay have prompted or accelerated discussion about changing pot laws in many nations, and activists say momentum is building in advance of a special United Nations convention on drugs scheduled for 2016. Here's a look at how some countries are rethinking their approach to marijuana.



Personal possession of controlled substances has been decriminalized, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2009 that found imposing jail time for small amounts of drugs was a violation of Argentina's constitution, which protects private actions that don't harm others. Lawmakers have been working to amend the law since then, with proposals ranging from simple decriminalization in accordance with the ruling to a complete overhaul of the country's drug laws. In December, Father Juan Carlos Molina, a Catholic priest newly appointed as the nation's drug czar, said Argentina deserves a debate about whether to follow Uruguay in regulating marijuana.



Brazil doesn't punish personal drug use, but trafficking or transporting small amounts of controlled substances is a criminal offense, punishable by drug abuse education or community service. Some advocates worry the law isn't clear about how much constitutes personal possession, and that can leave it up to a judge's discretion about whether someone should be punished. In November, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso joined former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in calling for the decriminalization of all drugs and allowing countries to experiment with drug regulation.



President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, a hard-hit cocaine transit country, took the floor at the U.N. last fall to join a growing chorus of nations calling the drug war a failed strategy. He announced that his country would study different approaches and praised the "visionary" experiments in Washington and Colorado - as well as U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to let them go forward. Currently, prison terms of four months to two years can be imposed for the possession of drugs for personal use.



The island nation is a primary source of marijuana in the Caribbean. Possession remains illegal and can result in mandated treatment or rehabilitation, though usually the defendant pays a small fine and is not incarcerated. Nevertheless, many young men wind up with criminal records that affect their future employment options, and recent changes in the U.S. and Uruguay have given momentum to activists who hope to see marijuana decriminalization approved soon.



In Mexico, where tens of thousands have been killed in drug war violence in the past seven years, there is no general push to legalize or regulate marijuana for recreational use. But in more liberal Mexico City, a metropolis of 8 million, lawmakers have introduced a measure to allow stores to sell up to 5 grams of pot. The plan has the mayor's support but could set up a fight with the federal government. Small amounts of marijuana and other drugs have been decriminalized in Mexico since 2009.



Morocco is one of the world's leading hashish producers, and nearly all of it makes its way into Europe. Cannabis was legal to grow as late as the 1950s by order of the king. Two leading political parties want to re-legalize its cultivation for medical and industrial uses, with the goal of helping small farmers who survive on the crop but live at the mercy of drug lords and police attempts to eradicate it. There is little chance the conservative nation will legalize it for recreational use any time soon.



The Netherlands has long had some of the most liberal cannabis laws. Hoping to keep pot users away from dealers of harder drugs, the country in the late 1970s began allowing "coffee shops" to sell marijuana, which remains technically illegal. Since 2012 the federal government has clamped down, briefly requiring people to obtain a "weed pass" to buy cannabis and banning sales to tourists. Some cities, including Amsterdam, have declined to ban sales to tourists, however, and mayors of 35 cities have banded together to call for the legalization of marijuana growing.



Long the drug war crusader, the U.S. was the driving force behind the 1961 treaty that formed the basis of international narcotics control. For decades the U.S. has required other nations to cooperate in the drug war or risk losing foreign aid, even as some Latin American countries ravaged by drug war violence criticized America for failing to curb its appetite for cocaine, marijuana and other substances. Since 1996, nearly half the states have allowed medical use of marijuana despite federal laws banning it, and some states are considering following the lead of Washington state and Colorado in legalizing recreational use.



In December, Uruguay became the first nation to approve marijuana legalization and regulation. President Jose Mujica said his goal is to drive drug traffickers out of the dope business and reduce consumption by creating a safe, legal and transparent environment in which the state closely monitors every aspect of marijuana use. By April, Uruguay is expected to have written the fine print on its regulations. Once registered and licensed, any Uruguayan adult will be allowed to choose one of three options: grow plants at home, or join a pot-growing club, or buy marijuana cigarettes from pharmacies.

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stinkyheadzzz February 18 2014 at 4:33 AM

Failure reeks from the drug warrior side, expensive failure is why it's still going on.

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babyloie1 February 17 2014 at 10:20 PM

Legalize it !!!!

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ronrsj February 17 2014 at 7:33 PM

First said by Frank P. Adams in 1930 in "The New York World" about alcohol prohibition and still true about marijuana prohibition:

"Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime.
It don't prohibit worth a dime.
It's filled our landwith vice and crime,
Neverthelesss, we're for it.

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frozenbull February 17 2014 at 4:57 PM

I think Russia and China will be next . Their leaders are really begining to see the new world order , and things such as legalizing drugs and gay rights are going to the top of their agendas

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1 reply to frozenbull's comment
ladyhour February 17 2014 at 5:41 PM

Only in your dreams frozenbull. The rest of the world will always fight for a clear mind, clean body and a pure righteous soul.

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Erin February 17 2014 at 4:46 PM

I love the negative comments that come with marijuana, ie. dumbing down America, typical stoner comment, etc. Yet the arguments are clearly "dumb" since they hold no evidence to what the actual truth is, unless we're still living the federal scare tactics of Reefer Madness days?? I have a hard time with all the negative claims of marijuana, since we really haven't even studied it or it's full potential until recently, and they're STILL studying it. If you want to make an intelligent comment, then don't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee/tea and throw all of those poisons out of your medicine closet, even the useless vitamins you think you need. Don't drive your car if you're afraid of CO2 poisoning, stop heating your house with gas, oil and coal and grow your own organic food. Get off the comments section here and actually get some facts before posting such nonsense, PLEASE!!!!!! I have met more intelligent, professional and responsible users of marijuana than you would care to even imagine. You wouldn't probably even know what a "stoner" looked like if they blew smoke right in your face. Making marijuana illegal is not going to increase users, or be the only gateway to addiction, which is a hereditary and a medical condition last I looked. There are plenty users out there already in hiding that just want the same rights as someone who wants to wind down for a beer after work, a glass of wine with dinner, eat/maintain weight while having cancer treatments or have their child's seizures treated without the criminal charges that have been coming with this negative and false stigmatism. If you're afraid of people driving under the influence, do we have the NSA monitor every purchaser of cold tablets, prescriptions, alcoholic beverages, and now possibly marijuana??? I would hope in America, we give the freedom of responsibility to it's people, like we do with alcohol. And last, let's not forget to add the jobs and cash crops that could be a huge help getting our financial crisis back in order here. Or are we waiting for China to grow it and then just sell it to us like everything else???

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1 reply to Erin's comment
frozenbull February 17 2014 at 5:27 PM

Erin have you been taking the medication your doctor gave you. It's nothing to be ashamed of .Many need to be on medication all their lives . Feel better .

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jkruse60 February 17 2014 at 4:34 PM

Obama don,t have enought morons on his side,smokin dope will build his strong hold.
it really don,t matter any way were on a down ward sprial to total destruction.

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Plunky February 17 2014 at 4:56 PM

If your grammar and spelling is any indication, then we're already at the bottom of the spiral...

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d00vinator February 17 2014 at 4:32 PM

only dopes think only dopes use dope.

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ajpoolio1 February 17 2014 at 4:32 PM

Ya, I'd sure like a dope head flying a 737 with my family aboard. - - - -Ya Right.

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2 replies to ajpoolio1's comment
Erin February 17 2014 at 4:49 PM

I wouldn't want any pilot using alcohol, taking prescriptions or cold pills flying my family either??? What's your point???

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chipandpete February 17 2014 at 4:54 PM

Government allowing Americans to grow a plant God created has little to do with your concern AJ. Just like in Co&Wa, your employer still has the right to not allow Cannabis users to be employed at their company. If legal, it would be the same as alcohol. Alcohol is legal now. Do you currently not fly because drinking is legal in the USA? Let's put our common sense helmet on before we post people. Paranoia is the starting cause of unneeded and unnecessary laws. Actually were you high when you wrote this?

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Hey Will February 17 2014 at 4:30 PM

I think if there are no school age children in the household, and there is no more than two plants or one ounce of processed pot.....then everyone wins...I think the Doctors are the ones that want to be the pushers...and pot would cut into their business....

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Erin February 17 2014 at 4:51 PM

What's the difference if kids have parents that are cigarette smokers or brew their own beer?? If we're going to make marijuana legal, then let's also educate everyone properly, like we do with everyone else these days. And if bad parents let their children drink or smoke, they're doing it as we speak...

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Davie2743 February 17 2014 at 4:26 PM

Many more States would legalize the only problem is politicians in these States need to figure out how they and their friends can make a buck from legalization of pot.

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Erin February 17 2014 at 4:52 PM

Big Pharma and our FDA is the only ones holding this up...until they figure out how to cash in.

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justmyvoice February 18 2014 at 5:44 PM

...AND replace the money they're already making from the illegal flow in their respective districts.

That's what kept The Prohibition alive. Public officials making under the table dollars while looking the other way while their friends distributed and sold in their districts.

BTW--While it was illegal for Americans to own, posess, manufacture or distribute alcohol during The Prohibition, member of Congress met daily for happy hour at the White House throughout this dark and corrupt period in our history.

Q. How do you think our most influential political families made their riches?

A. Selling illegal alcohol during The Prohibition.

And the only thing that's changed the past 50 years of the Marijuana Prohibition is the substance.

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