WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
11 Dec 2013 | News

Uruguay Becomes First Nation to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana

Press Release
December 11, 2013

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, Uruguay took the historic step of creating a legal, regulated national system for marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, possession, and use. In a landmark decision, the Uruguayan Senate approved legislation that the House of Representatives passed at the end of July. Now that the initiative is law, the government will have 120 days to develop the rules that will shape the new regulatory system.

Uruguay is the first country to enact such a law, joining the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington, which in November 2012 passed ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana.

“Uruguay’s enactment of legal, regulated marijuana is a watershed moment for hemispheric and global marijuana policy reform,” said WOLA drug policy expert John Walsh. “When the history of the unraveling of marijuana prohibition is written, Uruguay’s courageous pioneering role will figure prominently.”

Uruguay’s leaders have emphasized that their proposal is not necessarily meant as a model for other countries, but rather is designed to protect the human rights and promote the health and security of Uruguay’s own citizens. Nevertheless, by showing that such a departure from the status quo is feasible, Uruguay’s actions are blazing a path that other countries in the Americas and around the world can follow.

Uruguay’s timing is right. For decades, the United States has been the chief defender of the prohibitionist global drug control treaties. But U.S. public opinion is clearly shifting in favor of marijuana legalization, transforming the politics of the issue domestically. In August 2013 the Obama administration made clear that it would not attempt to prevent Colorado and Washington from moving ahead with their new marijuana regulatory regimes—giving a boost to consideration of similar approaches elsewhere.

The U.S. government is hardly in position to pressure countries against adopting approaches to marijuana similar to those already underway within the United States itself. “Because of the changes taking place in domestic U.S. marijuana politics and policy, the days of the United States as the international bully on the block—enforcing a strict global ban on marijuana—are coming to an end,” according to WOLA’s John Walsh.

For more analysis of Uruguay’s vote to legalize and regulate marijuana, please contact:

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) 213-4863
[email protected]