Uruguay to legalise marijuana sale, but not to be mistaken for a ‘pot-smoker’s paradise: President

Anyone hoping Uruguay will become a pot-smoker's paradise should probably head to Colorado instead, President Jose Mujica said.

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica poses for a photo with his dog, Manuela, at his home on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP) Uruguay's President Jose Mujica poses for a photo with his dog, Manuela, at his home on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP)
By: Associated Press | Montevideo | Updated: May 3, 2014 11:28 am

for illegal weed wherever they encounter it, and arrest anyone with pot that lacks the proper genetic markers, the rules say.

Mujica says the system is more transparent and honest than the medical marijuana laws passed by 21 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, which he called “brutal hypocrisy” because people can fake illnesses to get prescription weed.

“There are places where there are forms already filled out with a doctor’s signature. So you go, you say that you need marijuana because your ear hurts, they fill out the form, you prescribe it yourself and with the signature of a doctor,” he said.

Mujica who is preparing to visit President Barack Obama in the White House on May 12, predicted that Uruguay’s system will be much tougher on drug users, and more effective in combatting illegal drug trafficking.

Mujica, says his government will license and regulate the entire marijuana business, enforcing pot possession rules as well as limits on production and sales so that violators get punished and addicts get help.

Uruguay’s leader sat down for a wide-ranging AP interview in his garden after a quick ride in his Volkswagen Beetle with his wife, Sen. Lucia Topolansky, to the butcher’s shop to buy some meat for dinner. He answered questions surrounded by chickens, cats and dogs at the small farm on a hill overlooking Montevideo where he lives and grows flowers for sale.

It’s a critical time for Mujica and the ruling Broad Front coalition, which has staked its reputation on out-competing traffickers and treating marijuana more as a problem of public health than law enforcement.

Mujica also is negotiating with Obama over Guantanamo. He says he wants to help close the U.S. detention center by taking some prisoners, but won’t agree to Washington’s demand to keep the former terror suspects inside Uruguay.

“They will be able to move freely. They can leave. But they’ve been turned into walking skeletons. They’ve been destroyed by what they’ve gone through, physically and psychologically,” Mujica said. He declined to say more to avoid complicating the talks. “We’ve made our proposal. It’s the United States that has to decide.”

Mujica is a former guerrilla who led the armed Tupamaro movement before Uruguay’s 1973-1985 dictatorship. He was jailed throughout the junta years, mostly in solitary confinement. Now he not only leads his country, he’s an international celebrity after making passionate speeches against the consumerism and greed. Those speeches — and the marijuana plan — have earned Mujica a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year.

First Published on: May 3, 2014 11:27 amSingle Page Format
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