Uruguay debates dagga bill

2013-08-01 08:03
Dagga. (File, AFP)

Dagga. (File, AFP)

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Montevideo - Legislators in Uruguay hotly debated on Wednesday a measure backed by President Jose Mujica that would create a government body to control the cultivation and sale of dagga and allow people to grow it at home or as part of smoking clubs.

The use of dagga or marijuana is already legal in the South American nation, but sale and cultivation of it is not.

A vote on the bill - expected to be very close - was due later on Wednesday in the lower chamber of Congress. If it passes, the measure would then go to the upper chamber for consideration.

Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, said the measure would control the dagga trade under strict guidelines, help undermine drug-smuggling gangs and fight petty crime.

Critics say the measure risks luring more Uruguayans to harder drugs and could rile fellow Latin American countries battling drug-related violence such as Colombia and Mexico.

National registry

Uruguay is one of Latin America's safest countries and is considered a trailblazer on liberal lawmaking. But polls show most Uruguayans oppose the proposal. The two main opposition parties were working to ensure that their members vote "no".

The legislation would establish a National Cannabis Institute to control the drug's production and distribution, impose sanctions on rule-breakers and design educational policies to warn about the risks of dagga use.

Households would be permitted to grow up to six plants, or as much as 480g of dagga, per year under the measure. It also sets regulations for smoking clubs with up to 15 members, 90 plants and annual production of up to 7.2kg.

The measure would create a national registry of dagga users over the age of 18. Each would be allowed to buy up to 40g per month of dagga for recreational or medicinal use from authorised pharmacies.

"You can control production and sale, which will bring its own problems that will have to be addressed," said lawmaker Julio Bango, a Mujica ally in favour of the legislation. "Or you can have what you have now, which is chaos."

To avoid becoming a drug tourism destination, only Uruguayans would be allowed to use dagga under the bill.

Read more on:    uruguay  |  environment  |  health
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