Uruguayan president Jose Mujica has back stepped on his initiative to legalize marihuana conditioning it to an “ample support from public opinion”, at least 60%. The initiative was announced a few weeks ago during the Rio+20 summit and sent shockwaves in the region and worldwide.
“If 60% of the country does not support us, we’re abandoning the initiative” said Mujica quoted in the Executive web page, adding that when it was first announced “the purpose was for the whole country to discus and debate the issue as widely as possible”.
The initiative to legalize the sale of marihuana was originally included in a wider package to combat crime and narcotics, which has become the main concern of Uruguayan public opinion following several serious killing incidents involving drugs.
According to Uruguayan official stats there are 150.000 marihuana consumers in the country (out of a population of 3.5 million), mostly young people and some of them then climb further to a cheap cocaine compound, “pasta base” which is far more addictive and allegedly responsible for the increase in crime.
In Uruguay production and trading of cannabis is a serious crime but not consumption.
However the original bill on crime and drugs only had three lines referred to legalizing marihuana but immediately was a global headline. This was backed up by several government officials who went even further admitting they had consumed it or even suggesting how to grow it at home.
The Executive Secretary Alberto Breccia admitted to have smoked it at some moment, and made him feel “in peace, free, serene and joyful”. He later asked the media “not to trivialize the issue”.
Likewise the minister of Social Development, Daniel Olesker, even promised to supply a “users’ guide” to teach people to plant marihuana at home and in gardens while others went further speculating the government would set land aside to plant cannabis and would have a sales monopoly. However consumers would be compulsorily sent to recovery clinics pointed out other officials.
But the debate also showed great divisions inside the ruling coalition (as with abortion) and as more questions were asked and the level of improvised replies increased it was finally President Mujica who downplayed the initiative conditioning it to “his 60% public opinion support”.
However meantime the brilliant “agenda setting” from his office over shadowed a serious rift in the ruling coalition between President Mujica and Vice president Danilo Astori, the crash-landing of the country’s flag air carrier Pluna with losses estimated in over 350 million dollars and a teachers strike that has left government run high schools empty for weeks on end.
The problems have re-emerged but after a peace inspiring joint, things don’t sound that bad after all.