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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.

Join the discussion

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What's Shakin T February 17 2014 at 5:22 AM

Just legalize it in all the states already. If you don't want to use it, no one will force you to. There is no reason whatsoever why someone shouldn't be able to use it in the privacy of their own home.

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lakelanierlady February 17 2014 at 8:45 AM

I'd rather see the government get the money than the drug dealers!

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1 reply
bagpryor lakelanierlady February 17 2014 at 10:28 AM

And how many doped up children do you have to grieve over? Since when is the govt our new "father?"
That was Hitler's schtik.

I am the govt. We are the govt, and don't need or want drug money. We need jobs promised, not drugs to forget about the political deceit.

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ddstan1120 February 17 2014 at 9:08 AM

The other nations of the world should not look to the USA for guidance.
Pot is still illegal in the USA, according to the Feds, but the DOJ thoughtfully chooses not to enforce that law, sorta like illegal immigration.

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1 reply
bagpryor ddstan1120 February 17 2014 at 10:55 AM

Why do they look to the USA? Think, mon (as Cheech would say it), think! Who the hell is the DOJ? They have a job to do: Enforcement! Hint: This is what the hullaballoo is about today! Nobody is following the laws. That includes the Prez. Nobody wants to impeach the 1st black prez! It's all a dilemma but the other 2 branches of govt are working on it. Try catch C-span and listen to the hearings. It's live, not spin.

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ken February 17 2014 at 11:20 AM

As long as the US has the DEA, customs, judges, DA's, probation and parole officers, guards, prisons, cops, narks and the rest getting a nice fat paycheck from the 40+ year "War on Drugs" it will never stop

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tswain February 17 2014 at 9:37 AM

so enjoying a natural plant for either medical or private use to calm your mind or ease your stress levels (similar to what people do daily with Xanax, other prescribed meds, alcohol or cigs) or for a disease that may be debilitating is wrong?? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black (no pun intended) . To me all people need to understand is the fact that we have lots of other legal substances that kill people daily and you still indulge....Fast food kills daily and its legal and growing....alcohol, Tabaco products, prescription drugs the list goes on an on. All I would ask is for people to do some credible research on the subject and find answers for themselves. Also, dive into the PHARMA companies and see if you don't find red flags where they blocked the coming of a new treatment for disease because its better than the chemical compound they offer and that it would take BILLIONS from their profit......still think Chemo and radiation treatment is the best for cancers and tumors???? think about it. Also think about the use of Hemp and what farming it could bring to our country without destroying more of our forests.

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jennie February 17 2014 at 9:43 AM

I hate that we cannot get the government to do their jobs ,why is smoking which has 4 ,000 chemicals in it to thrive,none of these drugs should be allowed,no matter what their unhealthy for everyone.The gov. constatntly contradicts itself!Its just like rewarding illegal immigrants for breaking the law ,we have so much more to focus on an we need to speak up more after all they work for us not the other way around ,we need to remind them of this!

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2 replies
GUNSLINGER jennie February 17 2014 at 9:50 AM

Cigarettes = TAXES!!
Illegal immigrants = VOTES!!
Reminding them = VOTING AGAINST SANTA CLAUS (free phones)!!

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Scott jennie February 17 2014 at 9:52 AM

There are only 3 chemicals that need to be worried about when it comes to marijuana prohibition; Lead being sprayed on our streets by dealers and law enforcement, iron bars to hold dealers and users, and gold to pay for all of it.

Thing is, drugs are a BIG PROFITABLE BUSINESS on BOTH SIDES of the equation. Dealers get billions from their customers, and law enforcement gets billions from our taxes.

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sindfetish February 17 2014 at 9:45 AM

As we see this happen over the years on a world wide scale we will also see a markedly decrease in violent crime and general negativity in the world. And a run on chocolate.

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airtek01 February 17 2014 at 9:47 AM


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1 reply
thelightdragonstephen airtek01 February 17 2014 at 10:15 AM

Then roll up another.

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trippedsoul17 February 17 2014 at 9:49 AM

This issue is a "no brainer"... Eliminate politics and there is no way anyone with logic could keep cannabis illegal and alcohol legal. Make it to where politicians cannot receive corporate money to decide their vote and boom, cannabis becomes legal. Eliminate corporate interests in politics and watch the America as we know it get back on track. REAL change starts with getting these crooks out of office and onto food stamps.

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edyie47 February 17 2014 at 9:53 AM

you sir do not know what you are talking about. I know for a fact that if it was legalized there would be a lot less people taking prescription medicine that causes side effects that often die because of what it does to the organs in the body. I would give anything to have a loved one back that died because of prescribe medicine. When she smoked weed, pot, marijuana, maryjane, hemp, or anything else its called felt great and alive. But when she decided to stop the meds it was to late, her organs were already damaged.

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1 reply
Wendie edyie47 February 17 2014 at 10:10 AM

Amen, you are so correct!!

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