This summer, Uruguay’s government began a move toward the legalization of marijuana. First there was a positive August vote by the lower house, and now Uruguay’s Senate has also approved a legalization bill. The country’s president, José Mujica, is expected to sign it into law.
The law, which would create a state-run entity to control all phases of production, from planting to sale, also permits individuals and cooperatives to register with the government and grow small amounts for their own use.
In a number of columns, I wrote about moves in various countries, especially in Latin America, to end the global War on Drugs. In addition, I wrote specifically about marijuana legalization in Uruguay as well as in Colorado and Washington. One piece in particular argued that leaving marijuana regulation to the states would allow them to become the laboratories of democracy envisioned in the constitution. A comparison of the various policies in the different states would allow us to compare their associated rates of use of marijuana, of other currently illicit substances, of alcohol and tobacco, crime rates, measures of educational attainment, and various other relevant social statistics.
Once Uruguay finally puts its new law into effect and has a few years of experience with it, there will be valuable new data added to our understanding of the effects of different drug policies. Finally, we will be able to look at both before-versus-after statistics as well as comparisons among countries around the world and states within the USA. We will be able to compare the effects of the legalization policies in Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington, in addition to comparing the effects of decriminalization policies in Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, The Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland.
Uruguay Location; by Vardion (Wikimedia Commons)
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