When Uruguay legalized cannabis nationwide in July of last year, they were the first country to do so, setting up for a serious social experiment in South America where the War on Drugs has been raging since the 1970s.
Though it’s been less than a year, that social experiment is winning. In fact, it seems the only complaints about the law is that it’s not liberal enough. For one thing, the law only applies to residents of Uruguay, not to tourists, who possess and grow cannabis.
Since legalization, drug-related crime has dropped 20 percent. Residents can go to the pharmacy for their cannabis, attend a social club or participate in home cultivation.
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In 2011, a 66-year-old author named Alicia Castilla was arrested and tried for growing marijuana at her home. Despite a history of pro-cannabis activism in Uruguay, Castilla’s trial was the catapult that sent legalization over the edge. Amidst mass protests of the thought leader’s arrest, laws were first formed to permit home cultivation.
South America’s war against drugs has been absurd, with catastrophic results no matter what indicators you consider, including consumption. If Uruguay’s experience turns out positive, it will be easier for other countries such as Colombia or Mexico, mired in huge problems with powerful narcos, to find a better solution than the disastrous one implemented so far.
And their new model has been a success. From the drop in crime to the release of Castilla, back to her home where she is now legally allowed to grow and process the plant, things are looking up for this small South American country.
Did we mention public consumption also made the law? Residents believe that being able to imbibe outside one’s house makes for a safer environment for everyone, and so far they’re right. It may have taken arresting “the reefer grandmother,” as Castilla was dubbed in prison, but Uruguay is leagues ahead of the rest of the world, where cannabis becomes less controversial, in the majority of eyes, each and every day.