Uruguay is the first country to fully legalize both the production and sale of marijuana. And, in a recent interview with The Economist, Uruguay’s President, José Mujica, gives us our quote (or series of quotes) for this Saturday’s “They Said it On Marijuana.”
In a Q & A type interview, President Mujica shared the following views on Uruguay’s legalization efforts:
The Economist: The issue of the legalisation of drugs is one that The Economist has campaigned on for 25 years. So we agree with your initiative to legalise marijuana. For you, was this more of an issue of security or of individual liberties? Or both things? Do you think the law will stick?
President Mujica: Look, it began essentially as a security issue. We have spent many years repressing and spending money to fight drug-trafficking. We have had glorious successes, but trafficking continues to increase. In other words, this policy has failed for many decades. And it’s common sense that if you want to change you cannot keep on doing the same thing: you have to try other ways. We came to the conclusion that this is an addiction, you have to treat it on the one hand through the police, but then you have to treat it as an illness. You can’t treat an illness in [conditions of] illegality. In Uruguay there must be 150,000 sporadic consumers, but they are clandestine. We oblige them to be clandestine. When we can treat them it’s already late, it’s often irreversible; and moreover frequently they have committed related crimes to get money. It is pure loss for society.
What are we proposing? We are proposing a market logic: if we can’t beat them through policing, we are going to try to steal the market from them so that this ceases to be a business. But we’re not trying to foster an addiction. We have no truck with the idea that planting marijuana is good and that it’s less harmful than cigarettes and all of these things that are said. No, no, I believe that no addiction is good… This is the question, to be able to limit [consumers] to a certain quantity, and when they go over that to consider them as having an illness and treat them.”
Though we do not agree with every word President Mujica (who donates 90% of his salary to charity, BTW) says about legalization, we definitely agree with his goals of wresting marijuana from the black market and regulating it for the benefit and safety of society. Perhaps someday our own Federal government will see the light and follow Uruguay in ending the domestic and international (failed) wars on marijuana.