Lawmakers in Uruguay [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Thursday formally proposed to Congress a framework for the regulation of the production, sale and consumption of marijuana in an attempt to reduce drug-related violence. While the use of cannabis is legal in Uruguay, the growth and sale of the drug is not. The bill proposed [El Observador report, in Spanish] the creation of a National Cannabis Institute which would have the power to license individuals or companies for the production, storage, and distribution of marijuana. The National Cannabis Institute would also be responsible for imposing sanctions on rule-breakers and for creating policies to educate citizens on the risk of marijuana consumption. The state would have control over the management and regulation of the trade, with plans to track consumption through a confidential database. According to the guidelines of the bill [AP report], consumers would be able to purchase up to 40 grams of marijuana each month. The passing of this bill would make Uruguay legislation among the most permissive on drugs. A more restrictive marijuana bill was introduced in August, proposing that the production and sale of marijuana would be solely the responsibility of the government [JURIST report].
Marijuana use has created legal controversy around the world, especially in the US. In November, US voters passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana [JURIST report] for the first time on a statewide basis in both Colorado and Washington. In June the Chicago City Council [official website] voted to decriminalize [JURIST report] the possession of small amounts of marijuana, detailing that police officers may issue tickets to individuals found to be in possession of 10 grams of marijuana or less. In May the Connecticut Senate passed a bill [JURIST report] allowing citizens to obtain marijuana for medical use under certain conditions, making Connecticut the seventeenth state to allow sale of marijuana for medical use. Other states that have passed similar laws have run into trouble with conflicting federal laws regulating the production and sale of marijuana. In March the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] dismissed a suit [JURIST report] challenging US Attorneys' authority to prosecute medical marijuana providers in California. In January the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the state's laws allowing the sale of medical marijuana did not protect dispensers from federal prosecution. Connecticut has nevertheless been taking steps toward legalization of marijuana, last year passing a law decriminalizing possession [JURIST report] of small amounts of marijuana.