In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis, regulating all processes of ownership, growth and distribution of the plant. As a breakthrough in the international drug control regime, it reflects the rapid paradigm shift towards drug policy in Latin America. The international attempt, primarily led by the United States, to stop the production, transportation, sale and consumption of illegal drugs or classified narcotics and psychotropic drugs has been an important dynamic in relations, movements and conflicts across America for several decades. The social and human costs have been very high, and a growing number of activists, politicians and researchers have spoken out against this war, often referred to as the “war on drugs”, and have sought alternatives to avoid the costs paid by society. These alternatives focus mainly on cannabis, the most widely used illicit drug in the world (UNODC: 2014, 41). Therefore, this document will limit its scope primarily to the specific role of cannabis. Although the prohibitionist model remains prevalent in the region, more and more countries have decriminalized cannabis and reform debates in the region have gradually gained legitimacy and importance in recent years. Because of the importance and impact of these transnational trends in the region, this article examines the role that cannabis legalization in Uruguay has played in the discourse on drug policy in Latin America. The objective of this study is to analyze the Latin American paradigm shift away from prohibitionism towards the regulation of cannabis as an alternative to the war on drugs and, in this context, the decline of US hegemony in the region. The case study will focus in particular on the transnational impact of Uruguay`s decision to reinforce these trends in the region.
Despite this obvious popularity of the drug, it remains illegal in many countries, including the United States. Recent scientific research has shown that the effect of marijuana on a person`s health may not be as strong as previously thought. With these revelations and the increasing use of the drug among the population, there have been calls for the government to consider legalizing this popular recreational drug. In the same vein, we should also re-evaluate psychotropic drugs and other drugs that are currently improving medical practice. In other words, I believe that we cannot discriminate against one particular drug and support other drugs that are equally potentially addictive. This becomes a slippery moral and legal slope that sets a dangerous legal precedent. I agree with Jeffrey Mirion who predicted the costs associated with the criminalization of marijuana. Legalizing marijuana use will save about seven and a half to thirteen and a half billion dollars a year.
These costs are accompanied by resources for prosecutors, the judiciary, the correctional system and the police (Evans, 2013). In fact, I believe many, if not all, of the twenty-three states that have legalized marijuana are currently saving a lot of money. An obvious advantage of the legal industry is that it is tied to government control, which ensures that the products sold are safe for the consumer. The government can also monitor the production process and issue policies to ensure that the consumer is not exposed to unnecessary risks. This may include working with pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs containing marijuana. Instead of just providing a medical marijuana card, maybe there can be prescriptions and use them specifically for a medical condition. Especially now, when the use of marijuana for medical purposes is still in its infancy, there is still a lot to understand. However, the legalization of marijuana similar to same-sex marriage seems self-evident. The question is not so much when, but whether it will become common practice in each of the fifty states. That is why I support the legalization and collaborative sharing of best practices in marijuana use. The focus should be on solutions and the use of natural resources for good, not on hindering them out of fear.