It’s actually legal to smoke and possess marijuana in a lot of countries. What is different about Uruguay’s legislation is that for the first time a national government has taken charge of the entire supply chain – from crop to distribution point. That’s the radical thing.
But anyone that knows Uruguayan politics will not be surprised at the seemingly audacious political policy.
Freedom, political tradition and intoxicants in Uruguay
To ensure that citizens were not poisoning themselves by drinking unregulated moonshine, in 1931 Uruguay created ANCAP, the government-run industry which today still refines oil, makes cement – and produces whisky.
This is not market liberalisation. Uruguay’s actions are better explained by a long and pragmatic tradition of market intervention and nationalisation. The state controls all public utilities, fixes prices for essentials like milk. It has pioneered some of the tightest controls on tobacco in the world.
The government is offering a reasonable quality, legal product to be sold to citizens and residents in a safe environment at a price that competes with that offered by illegal dealers.
In addition, Uruguayans value personal freedoms illustrated in part in the nation’s total separation of Church and State.
The cannabis museum in Montevideo that looks at the legalisation in detail.
[Article first published: December 9 2016, updated at the date above]