Even as Uruguay considers a groundbreaking proposal from President Jose Mujica to legalize state-regulated marijuana cultivation and sales, parliamentarians from most of the leading political factions in the country are calling on the government to go even further and legalize all drugs in a bid to blunt the power of and threat from illicit drug traffickers.
The war on drugs has been "a resounding failure" because it has "fortified crime," said Independent Party Deputy Ivan Posada. Forty years of drug war has created a reality where there exist "true international enterprises dedicated to the traffic in drugs," which can only be effectively combated by "establishing the legalization of the traffic of all drugs," he said.
The legalization of marijuana sales and cultivation (use and possession are already legal in Uruguay) proposed by Mujica and his Broad Front (Frente Amplio) government is "doomed to failure" because it is only a half-measure and not a global strategy, Posada sniped.
The war on drugs approach "will fall sooner or later in this century," said Deputy Jose Bayardi of the Artigist Tendency (Vertiente Artiguista), a social democratic current within the Broad Front. "The only solution there is to defeat the drug trade is the legalization of all psychoactive drugs," he said.
"There will come a moment in which all the drugs that are today illegal -- heroin, cocaine, etc. -- will be administered in the same manner, with an informative pamphlet," said Bayardi, a former defense minister. "Then, the individual will take the responsibility for doing with them what he wishes. We are going down this path. Sooner rather than later, we will arrive, and then we will really be fighting the drug trade," he said.
The steps the government is taking to legalize and regulate marijuana sales and cultivation "are a beginning, a point of departure" on a path where "the state will regulate all drugs," said Broad Front Deputy Sebatian Sabini, who chairs the Commission on Addiction in the Uruguayan House of Representatives. "As a society, we aren't ready to discuss it, but in the long run we have to do it, also for public health reasons. We can carry the same analysis of the drug trade that leads us to legalize marijuana on to [cocaine] base, to cocaine," he said.
National Alliance Deputy Pablo Itturralde said what was needed first was a an educational campaign illuminating the dangers caused by drug abuse. "After that, if someone wants, he can consume what he will," he said.
Marijuana users aren't the problem, Itturalde said. "If there is a drug that is implicated in public safety, it is paste base," he said. "Marijuana users are peace and love people." [Ed: Paste base is also known as "pasta de cocaína," thought of similarly to crack cocaine, and is considered Uruguay's most worrisome drug problem.]
The leader of the House of Representatives, Deputy Jorge Orrico, also said that the way to fight the drug trade is to "legalize all drugs," although he caviled about paste base because of its negative effects. "Of all the other substances, I have no doubt because the business works in clandestinity. At the least, we can diminish the mafia," he said.
While the talk of legalization of all drugs cuts across the political spectrum in Uruguay, at this point it is only the legalization and regulation of marijuana commerce that is on the legislative agenda. But it sure looks like many Uruguayans are interested in looking further.