30.07.2012- Nota en The New York Times: "South America See Drug Path to Legalization"
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30.07.2012- Nota en The New York Times: "South America See Drug Path to Legalization"

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    30.07.2012- Nota en The New York Times: "South America See Drug Path to Legalization" 30.07.2012- Nota en The New York Times: "South America See Drug Path to Legalization" Document Transcript

    • 30.07.2012 - Nota en The New York Times: "South America Sees Drug Path toLegalization"MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — The agricultural output of this country includes rice, soybeans andwheat. Soon, though, the government may get its hands dirty with a far more complicatedcrop —marijuana— as part of a rising movement in this region to create alternatives to theUnited States-led war on drugs.Uruguay’s famously rebellious president first called for “regulated and controlled legalizationof marijuana” in a security plan unveiled last month. And now all anyone here can talk aboutare the potential impacts of a formal market for what Ronald Reagan once described as“probably the most dangerous drug in America.”“It’s a profound change in approach,” said Sebastián Sabini, one of the lawmakers working onthe contentious proposal unveiled by President José Mujica on June 20. “We want to separatethe market: users from traffickers, marijuana from other drugs like heroin.”Across Latin America, leaders appalled by the spread of drug-related violence are mullingpolicies that would have once been inconceivable.Decriminalizing everything from heroin and cocaine to marijuana? The Brazilian and Argentinelegislatures think that could be the best way to allow the police to focus on traffickers insteadof addicts.Legalizing and regulating not just drug use, but also drug transport — perhaps with largecustoms fees for bulk shipments? President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, a no-nonsense
    • former army general, has called for discussion of such an approach, even as leaders inColombia, Mexico, Belize and other countries also demand a broader debate on relaxingpunitive drug laws.Uruguay has taken the experimentation to another level. United Nations officials say no othercountry has seriously considered creating a completely legal state-managed monopoly formarijuana or any other substance prohibited by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention onNarcotic Drugs.Doing so would make Uruguay the world’s first marijuana republic — leapfrogging theNetherlands, which has officially ignored marijuana sales and use since 1976, and Portugal,which abolished all criminal penalties for drug use in 2001. Here, in contrast, a state-runindustry would be born, created by government bureaucrats convinced that opposition tomarijuana is simply outdated.“In 1961, television was just black and white,” said Julio Calzada, secretary general ofUruguay’s National Committee on Drugs. “Now we have the Internet.”But kicking the prohibitionist habit, it turns out, is no easy task. Even here in a small,progressive country of 3.3 million people, the president’s proposal has hit a gust of opposition.Doctors, political rivals, marijuana users and security officials have all expressed concern abouthow marijuana would be managed and whether legalization, or something close to it, wouldaccelerate Uruguay’s worsening problem of addiction and crime.Mr. Mujica, 78, a bohemian former guerrilla who drives a 1981 Volkswagen Beetle, seems tobe surprised by the response. He said this month that if most Uruguayans did not understandlegalization’s value, he would suspend his plan while hammering out the details and buildingpublic support. But this is a defiant leader who spent more than a decade in jail as a politicalprisoner, so even as he discussed postponement, he signaled that he might not be willing togive up, emphasizing that drug users “are enslaved by an illegal market.”“They follow the path to crime because they don’t have the money,” he said, “and theybecome dealers because they have no other financial means to satisfy their vice.”His government, which has a slim majority in Parliament, is moving forward. One of thepresident’s advisers said this month that draft legislation would be submitted within a fewweeks, and Mr. Calzada, among many others, has been hard at work. His desk is covered withhandwritten notes on local drug markets. A career technocrat with the long, wispy hair of anaging rocker, he said he had been busy calculating how much marijuana Uruguay must grow toput illegal dealers out of business. He has concluded that with about 70,000 monthly users, thehaul must be at least 5,000 pounds a month.
    • “We have to guarantee that all of our users are going to be able to get a quality product,” hesaid.He added that security would be another challenge. Drug cartels protect their product byhiding it and with the ever-present threat of violence. Uruguayan officials, including Mr. Sabini— one of several lawmakers who openly admits to having smoked marijuana — favor a moreneighborly approach. They imagine allowing individuals to cultivate marijuana for their ownnoncommercial use while professional farmers provide the rest by growing it on small plots ofland that could be easily protected.The government would also require users to sign up for registration cards to keep foreignersaway — an idea influenced by a new policy in the Netherlands, which restricts marijuanasales to residents — and to track and limit Uruguayans’ purchases (to perhaps 40 joints amonth, officials say). Finally, there would be systems set up to regulate the levels of THC, theactive ingredient in marijuana, and levy taxes on producers, relying for enforcement on theagencies regulating tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.Officials acknowledge that by trying to beat kingpins like the Mexican Joaquín Guzmán, knownas Chapo, at their own game, Uruguay would need to co-opt old foes and join forces with thesame drug aficionados it has been sending to jail for years.That means cozying up to people like Juan Vaz. A thin, dark-haired computer programmer andfather of three who is perhaps Uruguay’s most famous marijuana activist, Mr. Vaz spent 11months in prison a few years ago after being caught with five flowering marijuana plants and37 seedlings. In an interview, he compared marijuana to wine, and expressed both interest andalarm at the government’s plans. He said he was pleased to see the Mujica administrationtackle the issue, but like many others, he said he feared government control.Personal marijuana use is already decriminalized in Uruguay, so Mr. Vaz, 45, said the idea of aregistry for producers and users amounted to an Orwellian step backward. “We’re concernedabout the violation of privacy,” he said.Other growers and smokers, who spoke on the condition that they were not fully identified,appeared more eager to take part. Martín, 26, a bearded programmer whose closet full ofmarijuana plants added a unique aroma to his apartment complex, said his friends had beentalking about starting a small marijuana farm.Gabriel, 35, a dealer and user who lives downtown, said that he welcomed a legal market andhoped it would hamper the darker side of the drug business. He said that he had been sellingmarijuana on and off for 15 years — moving a little more than two pounds a month — andthat the people he bought from had often pressured him to take on more dangerous drugslike cocaine paste, a cracklike substance that has spread wildly through the region since 2001.
    • “Pasta base,” as it is called here, is generally blamed for Uruguay’s recent rise in drug addictionand violent crime, and Mr. Mujica has said that legalizing marijuana would break the cycle ofaddiction and delinquency that begins when users become dealers.Many in the drug treatment community have their doubts. “You’re never going to get rid ofthe black market,” said Pablo Rossi, director of Fundación Manantiales, which runs severalresidential treatment centers in Montevideo.But Gabriel said that big dealers would inevitably adapt. The question is: for good or ill? Maybethey would start selling cocaine cheaper, he said, causing more problems. Or maybe theywould be pushed out of the drug business entirely. For now, at least, they mostly seem to beafraid of change: he said a kilogram of marijuana (2.2 pounds) now costs about $470 inUruguay, up from around $375 before the legalization proposal was announced.“They are trying to make as much money as they can,” Gabriel said. “They think legalization isimminent.”Fuente: The New York Times