The Uruguay Senate’s vote Tuesday in favor of President Jose Mujica’s proposal to legalize the sale and cultivation of marijuana is not sitting well with a U.N. anti-drug watchdog, according to the BBC.
Supporters hope the new law, which awaits Mujica’s signature, will dry up a source of profit for criminal cartels. The measure (approved by the lower house of Congress in July) allows registered Uruguayans over 18 to purchase up to 1.4 ounces a month of marijuana and would permit the sale of the drug at pharmacies.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an independent body of experts that monitors compliance with anti-drug treaties, denounced the move, saying it would facilitate “the earlier onset of addiction" and endanger young people, the BBC reported.
INCB head Raymond Yan said the legislation violated an internationally endorsed anti-drug treaty and called assertions it would help curb crime "rather precarious and unsubstantiated.”
This week’s Senate debate on the bill, passed by a 16-13 vote, showed deep divisions within Uruguay over the merits of the legislation.
Sen. Robert Conde, a supporter, said it reflected the reality that the war on drugs was a failure and that legalization would help combat drug cartels which were using Uruguayan territory to funnel drugs to neighboring countries.
Opponents like Sen. Pedro Bordaberry accused Mujica of using Uruguayans as “guinea pigs” for questionable social experiments, and warned that Uruguay would become internationally known for its liberal drug policies, the BBC said.
The New York Times reported that polls indicate most Uruguayans oppose legalizing marijuana.
But the country has moved to the left on other issues, recently voting to legalize abortion and gay marriage, and Mujica’s supporters believe their coalition is strong enough to weather any negative political fallout from the marijuana measure.
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