Uruguay’s Legal Weed Market at Risk of Being Snuffed Out

Although Uruguay is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to establish a nationwide marijuana market, support for the program has been lackluster, with concerns that the upcoming presidential election could put the head of this progressive concept on the chopping block.

Earlier this year, the South American nation approved a measure aimed at snuffing out the snarling dogs of the black market trade by legalizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis at the estimated rate of $1 per gram. And while the majority of the world waits to see how President Jose Mujica will execute his master plan to eliminate the criminal pariah and, in turn, the country’s War on Drugs, the government is hard-pressed for time in establishing protocol for some of the problems that are predicted to arise.

“We’ve been working on this since the very beginning, since the first day. But I just don’t know if we’ll manage it ” an unnamed government official told Reuters, explaining how lawmakers are working on policies to keep criminal gangs from ruling the pot market the from the underground.

Uruguay initially planned to begin selling marijuana in pharmacies before the end of the year, but with the government still sorting through licenses for various operations and the structuring of new offices to facilitate the market, so far, nothing is going according to plan.

Yet, delays are the least of the country’s concerns, as the election set to take place later this month could put additional restrictions on the program or worse — have it butchered on the lawn of the Legislative Palace. This means that President Mujica must do everything in his power to roll out the program before his successor takes the reins in March.

Unfortunately, Mujica cannot run for a re-elected second term under the constitution, but one of the candidates, Tabare Vazquez, from the Frente Amplio coalition, has said in the past that he somewhat supports Mujica’s efforts to legalize marijuana. However, Vazquez’s primary opponent, Luis Lacalle Pou, from the centrist National Party, is not convinced that legal weed under the current law is right for Uruguay.

“I am against the state producing and selling drugs and earning money with this,” he said, adding that the current marijuana law does not serve to protect public health or prevent addiction.

If President Mujica is unable to launch a workable concept of legal marijuana in the near future, the outcome of this month’s election could essential keep it from happening. Yet, as long as there is an established law in place, it will be necessary for the winning candidate to introduce legislation in order to kill it.

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