Uruguay's Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday passed a measure [text, PDF, in Spanish] to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. The bill, if signed into law by President Jose Mujica [official website, in Spanish], will make Uruguay the first country in the world [AP report] to have a system that regulates marijuana production, sale and consumption. The bill, which was unveiled in June 2012, has caused controversy, as it is in contravention to the provisions of the international drug control treaties, such as the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs [text, PDF]. The existing legislation, Law 14,294 [text, in Spanish], which was passed in 1974, states, "Whoever is found in possession of a reasonable amount of drugs meant exclusively for personal consumption, as determined in good faith by a judge, will be exempt from punishment." While under this law the use of cannabis is legal in Uruguay, the growth and sale of the drug is not. The country's top drug official, Julio Calzada, said that they "seek to eliminate that incongruence."
The legislation was approved by the lower house [JURIST report] of the Uruguayan Congress in a 50-46 vote in August. Lawmakers formally proposed> the framework for the regulation of the production, sale and consumption of marijuana last year in an attempt to reduce drug-related violence [JURIST reports]. Marijuana use has created legal controversy around the world, especially in the US. Legalization of marijuana [JURIST backgrounder] has been a hot-button issue [JURIST report] in several states recently, despite it remaining illegal under federal law, pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act [text]. Late last month the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging Arizona medical marijuana regulation. Weeks before Washington state approved [JURIST report] rules for recreational sale of marijuana. In August the US Department of Justice [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would not interfere with states experimenting with marijuana legalization. Also in August New Jersey governor Chris Christie sent back a bill [JURIST report] which would have made marijuana more accessible. Earlier that month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed [JURIST report] a bill making Illinois the twenty-first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.