In December, 2013 Uruguay became the first nation in the Americas to legalize the growth and sale of marijuana for both recreational and medical use. Since then, the first crops have come in, and a new generation of home growers was born. Merry Jane’s Wide World of Cannabis flew down to take a closer look at how the nation’s new relationship with weed is shaping up.
Part one of the series’ Uruguay trip touched on the evident differences that occur when marijuana is under different types of political purview. One visitor, an employee of the Drug Policy Alliance of New York, pointed out the difference in the way marijuana expos are handled in Uruguay compared to other places: “It was just really interesting how this expo, compared with some other cannabis expos around the world, mixes government, politics, industry, and civil society.”
José “Pepe”Mujica, President of Uruguay from 20120- 2015, was instrumental when it came to encouraging nation-wide marijuana legalization, often called the “great experiment.” But before you start booking travel plans, know that cannabis is only legal to citizens of Uruguay. Private citizens can grow as many as six plants, and can also form grow clubs. Grow clubs let those without green thumbs maintain access to the good stuff, and grant access to bud at a theoretical savings for the quality. Think of them like co-op farms.
That said, home growers are expected to register in a government database. The federal government maintains control over sales, with a supposed cap of 1.4 ounces a month per person. The feds also manage the dispensary network, including fixing prices. Sounds a little less fun now, doesn’t it?
Former president Mujica’s reasoning behind legalization was not entirely centered on personal political freedom the way “liberty-minded folks” here in the States might want to believe. The intention was to seize the market from cartels; to regulate a preexisting market that the war on drugs will never eradicate. In fact, Mujica is a proponent for forced rehabilitation for drug users, including marijuana smokers. The current president, Tabaré Vázquez has toyed with the same idea, so it’s understandable that many home growers are reluctant to register with the government.
To sum up, even though the description of Merry Jane’s new video closes with a hint that Uruguay is a nice place to enjoy a toking trip, Wide World of Cannabis isn’t a series of tourism commercials. Considering Merry Jane’s coverage of marijuana politics has been accurate if not unbiased, viewers have something to look forward to as the series digs a little deeper.
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