WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
2 Aug 2013 | News

Uruguay Steps Forward with Marijuana Legalization Vote

Press Release
August 1, 2013

Washington, DC—Yesterday's vote by Uruguay’s House of Representatives to legalize and regulate the country’s marijuana market represents a major step forward for the landmark reform effort. The bill will now be taken up in Uruguay’s Senate—where the governing Frente Amplio coalition also holds a majority—and could soon arrive on the desk of President José Mujica, who has supported the proposal since its introduction in 2012.

“Uruguay appears poised, in the weeks ahead, to become the first nation in modern times to create a legal, regulated framework for marijuana,” said John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “In doing so, Uruguay will be bravely taking a leading role in establishing and testing a compelling alternative to the prohibitionist paradigm.”

Uruguay would also join the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington, whose voters approved ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana on Election Day in November 2012. Within the space of a year, the world may be witnessing the passage of three similar proposals—each clearly departing from the status quo, and each offering rich opportunities for learning how to improve our management of drug markets in ways that respect human rights and promote health and citizen security.

Leading up to today’s vote, Uruguay’s proposal had gained wide recognition and support internationally, including from respected public figures such as former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and from more than 100 drug policy NGOs in Latin America and around the globe. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, visiting Uruguay last week, gave the green light to Uruguay’s proposal.

In several other U.S. states and other Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Chile and Ecuador, similar marijuana regulation proposals are under consideration. “The positive outcome of today’s vote in Uruguay will inspire those and other initiatives around the world,” according to Martin Jelsma, Coordinator of the Drugs & Democracy Programme at the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI). “The trend is becoming irreversible: the era of a globally enforced marijuana prohibition regime is drawing to a close.”

With the Colorado and Washington votes, the favorable perspectives in the recent OAS “analytical” and “scenarios” reports on drug policy, and now the growing momentum for passage of Uruguay’s proposal, it is clear that the drug policy debate is growing in breadth and sophistication, and will not easily be reduced again to false choices and empty slogans.

For background on Uruguay’s proposal, please see the Drug Law Reform page of TNI’s website.

For more analysis of today’s vote and path ahead for Uruguay’s initiative, please contact:

In Washington:
Kristel Mucino
WOLA Communications Director
Office: +1 (202) 797-2171
Cell: +1 (617) 584-1713
[email protected]

John Walsh
WOLA Senior Associate
Office: +1 (202) 797-2171
Cell: +1 (202) 213-8163
[email protected]

In London:
Martin Jelsma
Coordinator, Drugs & Democracy Programme
Transnational Institute (TNI)
Cell: +31-65-571-5893
[email protected]