Moving to Montevideo

The president of Uruguay is making a move to legalize cannabis and Mr. Smith rises to applaud

I thought about moving to Uruguay once.

The South American nation just this side of Argentina has some amazingly white beaches populated by sea turtles in winter, and you can buy property there for pennies on the dollar just a couple of hours from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Uruguay is a fairly progressive place that is now vying with Amsterdam, Colorado and Washington state to be the top cannabis destination in the world. It might be winning.

Early last week, President Jose Mujica of Uruguay called on the world to help him with his nation's brave move toward cannabis legalization. A legalization law has passed the nation's House of Representatives and is expected to pass in the Senate. Mujica intends to sign it.

"We ask the world to help us create this experience. It will allow us to adopt a sociopolitical experiment to address the serious problem of drug trafficking. ... The effect of the drug traffic is worse than the drug," Mujica told the Brazilian periodical A Folha de São Paulo.

True enough, and a lot of people are beginning to agree that marijuana is less dangerous legal than illegal. But there are roadblocks to legalization, even for sovereign nations. Uruguay, which gets aid from the U.S. for counter-terrorism, defense and counter-narcotics operations, among other things, could face sanctions under a U.N. treaty it signed almost 40 years ago. The 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs doesn't allow legalization. Hmpf.

Interestingly, Nepal signed the treaty, but only with the caveat that it intended to allow the "quasi-medical" use of opium, the use of cannabis, cannabis resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis for nonmedical purposes, and production and manufacture of both drugs. Take that, U.N! Go, Nepal.

Saudi Arabia signed but refused to be bound by a clause that sends disagreements over the treaty to the International Court of Justice for resolution. That seems like a statement that they will do it, but if they decide not to, then fuck us! Saudi Arabia does what it wants! Andorra and Bahrain also objected to this clause.

So although this treaty could be a roadblock to legalization, it seemingly has a few cracks in it.

It allows for removal of drugs from the treaty with a World Health Organization recommendation. That seems unlikely for cannabis so far, given that the WHO website says (after a lengthy list of harmful effects) that cannabis has been shown effective for a handful of ailments and deserves more study. Not exactly a glowing endorsement.

Fortunately, treaties are written on paper, not etched in stone. Bolivia in 2009 petitioned the U.N. to amend the treaty to allow coca-leaf chewing, because it is a "thousand-year-old ancestral practice of the Andean people." That makes perfect sense to me. Last time I checked, cannabis use was a 5,000-year-old ancestral practice around the globe, so maybe we need an amendment to the U.N. convention on narcotic drugs to allow cannabis use. So far a bunch of nations, including Canada and Denmark, have voiced objections. Time will tell.

Anyway, I never moved to Uruguay, but I still think about it sometimes. I might never get there permanently, but I think it might be a nice place to go on vacation someday. They have some really nice beaches within reach of Buenos Aires, and they will probably soon have marijuana for sale for $1 per gram, which is the price set by the government earlier this fall.

I'm down.

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