The Uruguay government is proceeding a radical attempt to tackle organized crime. It has legalized the cultivation and trade of cannabis, removing the most attractive, profitable and risk free opportunities from the control of criminal groups.
In order to regulate production, cannabis cultivators will have to apply for a plot to farm the plant in a government run field. The Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) is giving out licenses on a five year basis.
The drug is then sold to the country’s pharmacies, where it will be sold on at around $1 a gram. The plant will be sold to private owners with regulated sales to start early next year. The government expects some 150,000 people to sign up for the program, with annual production of around 20 tons of cannabis.
Each Uruguayan citizen will have an opportunity to grow up to six marijuana plants, the equivalent of 480 grams, for personal use. The growers, on the other hand, will be allowed to produce and distribute a total of one to two tons of cannabis per year to pharmacies.
There are other regulations – purchase is limited to citizens to avoid drug related tourism. Growers and consumers must buy and sell government regulated marijuana. Plants will be cloned and it will be illegal to possess marijuana that doesn’t have the genetic markers of government plants.
Driven through against considerable criticism from the International Narcotics Control Board by president Jose Mujica, Uruguay is the first country to legalise the entire process from cannabis cultivation, through trade and distribution to consumption. Unlike Colorado and Washington State where similar schemes are being introduced this year, this has the support of the federal government and is in complete harmony with national law. The impact on crime control and public health will be closely watched all over the world.