MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay’s lower house of congress has voted 50-46 after 13 hours of passionate debate to create a legal marijuana industry in hopes of fighting organized crime.
The plan now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected to make Uruguay the first country in the world to license and regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.
Ruling coalition lawmakers argued Wednesday that it’s worth trying because the global war on drugs has been a costly and bloody failure.
Critics warn that marijuana is a gateway drug and that fostering this market is playing with fire.
Uruguay’s unprecedented proposal to fight organized crime by creating a legal marijuana market was hotly debated for more than 13 hours Wednesday, with the governing coalition counting every vote trying to secure passage in the lower house of Congress.
Uruguay would become the world’s first country to license and regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers if the measure becomes law, the Drug Policy Alliance said.
Supporters hope to eliminate a legal contradiction in Uruguay, where it has been legal to consume pot but against the law to sell it, buy it, produce it or possess even one marijuana plant.
Many argued that the global war on drugs has been a costly and bloody failure.
The vote in the house, where the ruling Broad Front coalition had a 50-49 majority, was seen as the best chance for opponents to block the law. It next would go to the senate, where the government has a more comfortable majority.
The plan changed little in the six months after President Jose Mujica postponed voting to give supporters more time to rally public opinion. However, recent polls said two-thirds of Uruguayans remained opposed despite a “responsible regulation” campaign for the bill.