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Uruguay Lays Out Plan for State Pot Business

Debate rages over the potential impact of Uruguay's plan to sell government-grown marijuana.

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By McCarton Ackerman

07/30/12

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Non-medical marijuana could soon be growing legally right next to rice and soybeans in Uruguay. The country's government is considering not only legalizing the drug, but creating a state-managed monopoly. The radical plan, created by President José Mujica, would outstrip the decriminalization models seen in the Netherlands and Portugal, and is sparking intense debate in the South American nation about its potential impact. “It’s a profound change in approach,” says Sebastián Sabini, one of the lawmakers working on the proposal. Musica has said that the government must grow its own marijuana—to the tune of 5,000 pounds per month to satisfy the country's 70,000 regular users—in order to put illegal dealers out of business. To avoid potential violence from drug cartels, he also proposes allowing residents to cultivate their own pot for noncommercial use, with professional farmers growing the rest on small plots of land that could be easily protected. Systems would be put in place to regulate the level of THC in government-grown weed, and users would have to sign up for registration cards, helping to keep pot tourists away. Purchases would be limited to roughly 40 joints per month. Uruguay's revolutionary plan is at the forefront of an ongoing trend in South America to find alternatives to the US-led war on drugs. Brazil and Argentina are considering decriminalizing all drugs, while Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has looked at regulating drug transports by possibly charging large customs fees for bulk shipments.

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