Uruguay president’s plan to sell marijuana may not be that crazy

Judging from what Uruguayan President Jose Mujica recently told me in an extended interview, there is a real possibility that people in his country will soon be able to buy marijuana legally from a state-regulated company that will be in charge of marketing and selling the drug.

Mujica, 78, earlier this month submitted a bill to congress that may be the boldest marijuana legalization proposal anywhere in the world. It calls for the state to “take over the control and regulation of activities related to the importation, production, acquisition, storage, marketing and distribution of marijuana.”

This would go way beyond what countries such as the Netherlands and Portugal have done in recent decades to in effect decriminalize marijuana use. It also dwarfs recent proposals by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina – and milder versions by the leaders of Colombia and Mexico – to start an open debate over legalization of drugs.

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Are you proposing that the state start selling marijuana? I asked Mujica.

“It’s a little bit more profound than that,” he answered. “The idea is to take away the market from drug traffickers.

Mujica explained that, nowadays, drug traffickers who sell marijuana in Uruguay often induce young people to consume heavier drugs, such as cocaine paste. That has caused, among other things, a major rise in violent crime in the country.