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Cannabis in Uruguay

Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs in Uruguay today. Prior to the legalization of Cannabis possession for personal use was not penalized, although the former law did not specify the legal quantity of cannabis considered as "personal amount." On the 23rd day of December 2013 the final stage in the legalization process was enacted by President José Mujica, making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize the regulation of sales, cultivation, and distribution of Cannabis. Included in the Uruguay law 19.172 legalizing cannabis is a structured system that: clearly defines who can possess cannabis in Uruguay as Uruguayan citizens 18yrs of age or older, designating the maximum level of THC at 15%, controls the production and sale of cannabis from seed through consumption, establishes daily/monthly maximum consumer allotments, tracks consumer cannabis consumption through a registry, outlaws any type of media promotion related to cannabis, delivers stiff penalties to individuals driving or working under the influence of cannabis, provides access to community education and rehabilitation centers, designs a financial vortex aimed at keeping the revenue stream circulating within the legal Uruguayan economy. Drawing upon the support of multiple agencies, all of the proceeding actions are regulated through The Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), a newly formed agency that advises the National Drug Council on national policy within Uruguay.

Uruguay's commitment to legalize cannabis sales and make its government the sole provider reflects a growing world-wide urge to find new and less violent solutions to the drug war. A movement being led by President Mujica with a calling upon global leaders to do the same in hopes of ending violent drug trafficking internationally while expanding research into new cures that treat debilitating illnesses.

United States Cannabis Position

As of the beginning of 2014, medical marijuana legislation is either in place or set to take effect in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Because these laws were passed on a state-by-state basis, there exists a patchwork of state policies governing medical marijuana. While Alaska only allows for the possession of one ounce and six plants, with no legal protection from arrest, Oregon permits patients to possess up to 24 ounces and 15 plants, with state registration protecting qualified patients from prosecution. Though most states which have decriminalized medical marijuana have also provided legal protections for its users, the majority of these laws have not established mechanisms for dispensing the drug or for regulating its quality and safety. The very definitions of what qualifies patients for medical marijuana can vary greatly, with New Mexico, for instance, only permits its use for a limited set of conditions (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, and terminal illness), while California has an expansive list that encompasses general ailments such as migraines, severe or chronic pain, and of course “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”
To lay bare the federal government’s recognition of the potential uses in Cannabis as medicine, in October 2003 U.S. patent #6630507 entitled "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" was assigned to "The United States Of America as Represented by the Department of Health and Human Services." The patent mentions CBD's ability as an antiepileptic, to lower intraocular pressure in the treatment of glaucoma, lack of toxicity or serious side effects in large acute doses, its neuroprotectant properties, its ability to prevent neurotoxicity mediated by NMDA, AMPA, or kainate receptors; its ability to attenuate glutamate toxicity, its ability to protect against cellular damage, its ability to protect brains from ischemic damage, its anxiolytic effect, and its superior antioxidant activity which can be used in the prophylaxis and treatment of oxidation associated diseases.

"Oxidative associated diseases include, without limitation, free radical associated diseases, such as ischemia, ischemic reperfusion injury, inflammatory diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus, myocardial ischemia or infarction, cerebrovascular accidents (such as a thromboembolic or hemorrhagic stroke) that can lead to ischemia or an infarct in the brain, operative ischemia, traumatic hemorrhage (for example a hypovolemic stroke that can lead to CNS hypoxia or anoxia), spinal cord trauma, Down's syndrome, Crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes), cataract formation, uveitis, emphysema, gastric ulcers, oxygen toxicity, neoplasia, undesired cellular apoptosis, radiation sickness, and others. The present invention is believed to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of oxidative associated diseases of the CNS, because of the ability of the cannabinoids to cross the blood brain barrier and exert their antioxidant effects in the brain. In particular embodiments, the pharmaceutical composition of the present invention is used for preventing, arresting, or treating neurological damage in Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and HIV dementia; autoimmune neurodegeneration of the type that can occur in encephalitis, and hypoxic or anoxic neuronal damage that can result from apnea, respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest, and anoxia caused by drowning, brain surgery or trauma (such as concussion or spinal cord shock)."

Currently Washington State and Colorado have legalized recreational possession and use of Cannabis by individuals meeting each of the state’s criteria, with increasing states having similar initiatives in legislation. In 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama took office, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum to its 93 U.S. Attorneys informing them that prosecuting individuals who use medical marijuana in compliance with state laws should not be a priority. Such enforcement initiatives demonstrate the tenuous balance that still exists between federal and state laws on medical marijuana.

United Nations Cannabis Position

Over the last few decades the international war on drugs has led to a public health crises, mass incarceration, corruption, and black market–fueled violence. Governments have begun calling for a new approach, initializing reforms in some countries that have spurred an unprecedented international movement for change. Pressed by drug war–fatigued Latin American leaders, the UN General Assembly plans to hold a review of the drug control system in 2016.

Under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, international conventions that currently exist for drug control/prohibition, 'enforcement' of these conventions are superintended by sub-organizations of the World Health Organization (WHO), all of whom are based in Vienna. All countries who have ratified the conventions have to report annually that all is well with prohibition. This explains the contradiction between State laws in the US (some decriminalization) and US federal law that saw State-legal outlets raided by Federal agents. It doesn't seem to be enforced strictly at the moment, but could be again at any time.

If you interpret that these conventions are international law which can never be modified, then obviously a country or state legalizing cannabis is acting illegally. If a country uses her sovereignty to write laws without ratifying the conventions with the appropriate agencies in Vienna, then any country that is a member of the UN having legalized cannabis is non-compliant which you could call illegal. Laws legalization or regulating controlled substances may be legitimate in a given country, but they are still illegal under international 'law' and it could very well mean that any country not in compliance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 could suffer sanctions.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on drugs comes at a time when there have been a growing number of calls for drug policy reform across Latin America. For the first time sitting presidents such as Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina are questioning the underlining premises of the international drug control paradigm, calling for a debate on alternative approaches. One concrete result of such efforts was the May 2013 release of an innovative report on drug policy by the Organization of American States (OAS). Utilized as a tool for promoting regional and international drug policies debate, the OAS report presents four possibilities for how drug policy could evolve in the Americas, most of which break from the current U.S.-led approach. At this year’s UN General Assembly meeting, Santos and Pérez Molina were joined by President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, who called for developing more effective responses to drug trafficking based on public health, respect for human rights and harm reduction. All four presidents united in calling for an open and wide-ranging debate leading up to the 2016 UNGASS.
Recently there has been mounting evidence that the system is far from perfect and needs to be fundamentally reviewed. This information was intended to have guided the UNGASS review of drug control policies in 2009, sessions which consequently ended in largely reaffirming the current arrangements. Thereby representing a missed opportunity of considerable magnitude. Forcing the world to continuing to rely on policies that are based on the eradication of production, the disruption of drug trafficking channels, and the criminalization of consumption, none of which have yielded the intended results. We risk the wellbeing of our communities by continuing to follow the currently outdated policies in place, policies that are jeopardizing the health and safety of countless individuals worldwide.

- Plandaí and Cannabis – What is Our Role?
- Cannabis Law
- The Need for Standards in the Cannabis Industry
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