The lower house of the Uruguayan Congress [official website] on Wednesday approved legislation [text, PDF, in Spanish] that would allow the national government to take charge of production and distribution of legal marijuana. The legislation passed [AP report] by a vote of 50-46 but still has to be approved by the Senate in order to become effective. The bill is highly controversial, as the law is in contravention to the provisions of the international drug control treaties, such as the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs [text, PDF], to which Uruguay is a party. The bill was unveiled in June 2012 as part of a series of measures to combat rising violence. President Jose Mujica supports the legislation, believing that it will help combat drug trafficking and crime.
Lawmakers formally proposed the framework for the regulation of the production, sale and consumption of marijuana in November 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. 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 2012 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 of last year 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 of last year 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.