Why let drug dealers make a profit when the government can? That seems to be the theory behind Uruguay’s plan for a government takeover of the marijuana industry.
If the plan is enacted, Uruguay would become the world’s only national government to sell marijuana.
The Uruguayan government says it would use profits from selling the drug to rehabilitate addicts, The Associated Press reports.
Uruguay has never criminalized drug possession for personal use. Now, the government seeks to take complete control of the industry by becoming the sole provider of legal marijuana.
The goal of the new policy is to combat crime in the Latin American country. Unlike its neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has relatively little crime, but its figures are rising. Uruguay will implement other measures to combat the increase in crime, including compensation for victims of violence and longer jail terms for traffickers of hard drugs.
A second goal is to steer drug users away from more lethal substances by providing access to what is commonly seen as a less dangerous drug.
Although details have not yet been worked out, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro told reporters that Uruguayan farmers would grow the marijuana.
In order to purchase marijuana legally from the government, users would have to register on a government database so that purchases can be tracked by government officials.
“The idea of registering users is not unprecedented,” said Kris Hermes, a media specialist for Americans for Safe Access, an organization that promotes safe and legal access to medical marijuana, “but it’s certainly not necessary and raises questions about the government’s motivations.”
Hermes added, “the adoption of laws that help to dismantle a losing war on drugs can only have a positive impact.” He would like to see similar steps toward legalization taken in the United States.
“A first step that the Obama Administration could easily take is to reclassify marijuana from its current placement as a Schedule I substance, a dangerous drug with no medical value,” Hermes said.