Here’s What Legalized Marijuana Did To Uruguay In One Year


Written by: Vandita


On December 10, 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. With this move, hailed as the ‘great experiment’, the government hoped to tackle drug cartels, though the critics believed it would expose more people to drugs. In the recently concluded elections, Uruguay voted for leftist Tabare Vazquez who beat Luis Lacalle Pou in the presidential run-off. The victory is seen as reflecting public sentiment in favour of country’s legal marijuana and left government’s growing dispensary system. Whether it is a setback for those against legal marijuana is yet to be seen, the great experiment has definitely got a shot in the arm. Let’s see what legalized marijuana did to the country in the past one year…


In December last, Uruguay allowed its citizens over 18 years of age to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 ounces) marijuana per month apart from making it legal to grow and sell the drug. In an attempt to woo customers, the price was set at $1 a gram, close to the street price of illegal marijuana.  Uruguayans could grow up to six plants in their houses (after signing up in a national registry) and were permitted to produce more through private grow clubs. There were more regulations in place. Sale of marijuana was required to be channelled through the federal government authorised to set up dispensaries and determine prices. It was illegal to smoke marijuana on the job as well as while driving a vehicle. There was a provision of a hefty penalty too ranging from $2 to $87 for punishing the violators. Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to set up the network of dispensaries even after one year.  The National Board of Drugs said that dispensaries would now be open in March 2015.uruguay marijuna kids

The booming black market inspired former President José Mujica to legalize marijuana.  Mujica intended to seize the market from illegal drug dealers, hence the law. He insisted that legalization would merely regulate the market that already exists and in no way encourage people to smoke weed. jose mujica worlds poorest president

Mujica was central to marijuana reform in Uruguay. “The political decision to go from total prohibition to regulation happened entirely due to the fact that Uruguay’s president today is José Mujica,” said Julio Calzada, secretary general of Uruguay’s National Drug Council. In an interview to VICE reporter Krishna Andavolu, Mujica said, “There has always been a conservative and reactive opinion that fears change. The sad part is that a man who is almost 80 (pointing to himself) has to come and propose a youthful openness to a conservative world that makes you want to cry”.

Activists, however, see a problem with some of the regulations like restricting the amount of marijuana that one could grow – six plants to be precise. Alejandro Gianades told VICE that the limit is arbitrary as potency of each plant varies as per its size and quality. A healthy plant with many leaves and a high THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) level is as good as many emaciated plants.

In order to grow more – 99 plants to be precise – users can join/form a cannabis growing club. 99 plants can produce large amount of premium marijuana if managed by an experienced marijuana farmer. However, running these kinds of services is very complicated and requires a lot of money. The first club to register in Montevideo, The Association of Cannabis Studies of Uruguay, had around 40 members who each paid $300 to join along with a monthly membership fee of $65. Uruguay’s law puts a cap on 45 members per pot-growing club. Laura Blanco, president of Association of Cannabis Studies of Uruguay, feels this is an expensive proposition when it comes to sharing the cost burden, above all the fixed costs as the cap makes it difficult to grow weed cheaply.

With no dispensaries open even after one year of legalization, many Uruguayans are indeed growing their own marijuana. Juan Manuel Varela, owner of Urugrow, a dispensary in Montevideo, told the Globe and Mail that his customer base had grown and turnover doubled since the legalization law was passed.

Still, there are many marijuana users in Uruguay who don’t/may not want to grow the plant in their backyard just to avoid going through all the trouble of cultivating it. They have two options: register with the government to get limited supply of legal but relatively expensive and mediocre marijuana, or continue buying it illegally. So how many will choose to buy/grow legal and say goodbye to black market will make or break the great Uruguayan experiment.

Julio Calzada, one of the architects of Uruguayan drug revolution, believes that legally available marijuana will be more helpful in fighting the illegal marijuana trade than cracking down on dealers. 2890644242_57f7dd5c84_o

In an interview with Reason in 2013, Calzasa said, “In Uruguay, there are about 120,000 daily-to-occasional cannabis users. At present, these people are buying from criminals and strengthening local mafia. If the government can take control of that market, criminal organizations will lose their main source of income”.

He added, “With the infamous Plan Colombia, the U.S. thought it could pulverize drugs with an iron fist. But the only thing it achieved was to spread organized crime across the entire continent. That youths in our slums are now smoking cocaine paste is collateral damage of Plan Colombia. It’s the balloon theory; wherever you squeeze a balloon the air just goes somewhere else. After half a century of disastrous results we’re choosing to embark on a different path”.

Calzada believed that regulation can be an extremely powerful political tool and can effectively influence public health. “In 2005 we regulated the tobacco industry in a similar way. Since then, use among young people has fallen from 32 to 12 per cent,” he said.

14% Uruguayans, between the age of 16 and 64, use marijuana. By controlling and regulating the marijuana trade, Calzada thought “government could lower the marijuana smoking rate as well as prevent users from smoking prensado paraguayo, a compressed blend of leaves, glue, oil, faeces, chemicals and so on. The mix is much more harmful to health than pure cannabis”.

When Vazquez assumes office on March 10, 2015, he will have to decide on how to implement the sale of state-controlled marijuana to registered consumers at pharmacies. He’s previously been sceptical of government distribution of weed, reports the Guardian:

When Vazquez passed tough anti-tobacco legislation, including a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, risk warnings covering 80% of cigarette packs and a ban on advertising and sponsorships, international tobacco giant Philip Morris proceeded to sue Uruguay. An arbitration ruling is still pending before the World Bank. “Uruguay is not afraid of Philip Morris,” Vazquez proclaimed only a few months ago.

Observers expect Vazquez to be just as tough on marijuana as he has been on tobacco. “Natural organisms do not require drugs,” he said during the election campaign, saying drugs should only be taken under medical prescription. “This path proposed by President Mujica and that I agree with, might be the solution – but it might not be”.

The impact of the ‘great experiment’ can already be felt; the country need not wait till March next. In Montevideo, people openly smoke weed without any fear of harassment by the police. For these users and those who propagated marijuana reform, passing of the law is a major milestone which was unthinkable till a few years ago.




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  1. Legal or not only morons do drugs. You can’t work properly when always tired. You have less energy less money you get mood swings and generally hurt family and friends colleagues your own kids in the process and in the end you lose jobs. And yeah every dope addict eventually turn to pills….fuck drugs

    • FALSE. How about read a book on marijuana before comparing it to other drugs and posting a very unintelligible comment. Believe me, marijuana is not what did that to the people you speak of, if you’re even speaking of someone specific, except maybe the laziness (though you can help that if you really wanted to)…it was character that drove them to those things.

    • Could you please define drugs? Do you mean like Cocaine, like the CIA still until this day traffics into the US? – Or perhaps you meant drugs like any of the extremely addictive and dangerous opioid derived pills (Oxycontin, etc.) that are force fed to people via big pharmaceutical through “trusted” DR.’s to their patients. How about Alcohol? It brings an average of 88,000 related deaths per year? Comparatively, Marijuana, has zero directly related deaths, is not physically addictive, and has many medicinal properties that actually help humans, and animals.

      Reading is fundamental shitbird. I suggest you turn off your TV and educate yourself on reality.

      • Marijuana is not completely safe. The evidence is that, generally, it is safer than alcohol and, arguably, less harmful than tobacco. It can exacerbate borderline mental illness and can be habit forming and cause a user to become dysfunctional.

        Personally, I stopped drinking alcohol (in my 50s) and took up weed to wind down a day. I feel better. My hypertension is gone, I’m calmer, and my arthritis is abated. However, my consumption of milk and cookies has become phenomenal.

    • Could you please define drugs? Do you mean like Cocaine, like the CIA still until this day traffics into the US? – Or perhaps you meant drugs like any of the extremely addictive and dangerous opioid derived pills (Oxycontin, etc.) that are force fed to people via big pharmaceutical through “trusted” DR.’s to their patients. How about Alcohol? It brings an average of 88,000 related deaths per year? Comparatively, Marijuana has zero directly related deaths, is not physically addictive, and has many medicinal properties that actually help humans, and animals in numerous ways.

      Reading is fundamental, and critical thinking skills are required. I suggest you turn off your TV and educate yourself in reality with this thing called facts. Your propaganda is outdated grandpa.

    • i run my own painting buisness, the last two weeks i worked 153 hrs i have worked the last 4 full weekends in a row i have a beautiful wife and awesome family and guess what???? all of this can you imagine while smokin everyday!! o by the way after i had neck surgery 2 yrs ago i was hooked on pain pills prescribed by a doctor 90 pills every month smokin weed is how i quit that crap!!! get your facts straight do a bit of reading better yet smoke ya a fatty MORON!!!!

    • Wow Quinton with such claims as those you must be a very well uneducated person i smoke pot & the majority of my past employers will admit instead of it making me lazy & unable to think they have the opinion that i was one of the better employees they ever had & secondly my uneducated friend do you drink coffee or tea because they are drugs i also suspect you like a alcoholic beverage which again is a drug & when you get sick what do you take to help you feel better i hope not antibiotics because they are also drugs along with panadol asprin neurophen & by fuck lets all hope you have never had sex because sex is a drug so my brain dead uneducated fuckwit i suggest you have a good look at your life & after you realize all the drugs you have used you do the world a favour & kill yourself for being such a hypocrite.

  2. Ok, ok… but what about the money that Uruguay state receive from all those subscribed consumers? I think that, this should be an interesting fact for the other countries to legalize weed. If Uruguay legalized it just to stop the drug cartel’s, it’a big problem for the budget. You can’t invest in something for “the people” without having a secret motive to do that. This organized crime thing, i dont buy it… i’m so interested about the taxes and at the end of the year the budget report… if anyone can help, please do it. Thank you

  3. This entire article doesn’t even tell me what happened to Uruguay after marijuana was legalised. It just reiterated a bunch of laws and legislation’s that tell me nothing of the aftermath.

  4. I really question the credibility of this article, The very first sentence is incorrect. Uruguay is surely not the first country in the world to legalize marijuana, as Netherlands has been there for quite some time.

  5. Quinton do you drink coffee tea or alcohol if so shut the fuck up you drug addict , have you ever taken antibiotics panadol or neurophen then shut the fuck up drug addict have you ever had sex even if it was by yourself shut the fuck up drug addict & go get educated instead of trying to believe in outdated propergander or are you one of them proffesional drug dealers ie a pharmaceutical company & scared that the truth is comming out pot cures cancer pharmaceutical companies just get rich dealing their drugs to the sick while trying to make it illegal to use things that will cure their man made diseases . The only thing i hope you pay attention to in this comment is “Fuck off & die you brain dead parasite”.


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