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Despite repeated pushback from the United Nations, Uruguay is prepared to defend its decision to fully legalize the cultivation and consumption of cannabis. Juan Andres Roballo, president of the nation’s National Drug Board (JND), is eager for the UN to open the discussion regarding national and international legalization.

Representatives for the UN have stated that Uruguay’s direction “is incompatible with what is stipulated in the 1961 Convention.” The landmark agreement outlined clear objectives aimed at limiting the possession, movement, and manufacturing of marijuana to “medical and scientific purposes.”

Roballo announced that Uruguay was forging new territory and that its new policies are likely to be scrutinized by the international community. JND Secretary Milton Romani stated that a history of stringent anti-drug laws has harmed rather than helped the country. He went on to say that regulation would work toward:

“…upholding the ultimate goals of these treaties, which explicitly say they seek to improve humankind’s health and well-being.”

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Uruguay is taking the position that cannabis regulation is a matter of public health, and as such should not be managed through the criminal court system. A press release for the Tabare Vazquez administration declared that:

“[T]he criminalization of use and possession of drugs infringes upon the right to freedom and autonomy.”

Although legalization was initiated in Uruguay over a year ago, the regulations process is moving along slowly. Currently, home growers can cultivate up to six plants with a permit issued from the national Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute (IRCCA). In addition, non-profit cannabis clubs may distribute up to 40 grams of the plant to their members.

The process of selecting and licensing growers and pharmacies is still underway. Despite delays, Romani says that in the international discussion of legalization, Uruguay has “kicked the hornet’s nest.”

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