Uruguay wants to grow, sell marijuana to cut drug-related crime

BUENOS AIRES Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:02am BST

An activist for the legalization of marijuana, who declined to be identified, checks the plants of his illegal plantation in a neighbourhood of Montevideo March 15, 2011. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

An activist for the legalization of marijuana, who declined to be identified, checks the plants of his illegal plantation in a neighbourhood of Montevideo March 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Andres Stapff

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Uruguay's government has sent a bill to Congress that would allow the state to grow and sell marijuana, a move that President Jose Mujica says will cut crime associated with illegal drug trafficking.

The use of cannabis is already legal in Uruguay, one of Latin America's safest countries and a trailblazer on liberal lawmaking. The bill would regulate its sale and production.

Other countries in the region, like Colombia and Mexico, have struggled for years with killings and other violence linked to the narcotics trade. Mujica's government says the negative effects of pot smoking are less harmful than the violence associated with the black market, where it trades illegally.

Registered consumers would be limited to buying 30 grams (about 1 ounce) per month and foreigners would be banned from buying the drug to prevent the small country of 3.3 million people from becoming a hot spot for pot-smoking tourists.

The state's new role as official pot grower and distributor will be carried out "exclusively in the framework of a policy of damage reduction, while at the same time alerting the public to the dangers of using (the drug)," according to the bill.

Meeting the country's demand for marijuana will require annual production of about 27 tonnes, the government estimates.

(Reporting By Malena Castaldi, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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