“We must question whether we leave drugs under the control of organized crime or controlled by the state and society”
With this sentence, Milton Romani Gerner, former Secretary General of the National Drug Board of Uruguay and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, concluded his participation while providing details of the process that led to the law regulating and controlling cannabis in Uruguay, ”it was debated in 2013 within the National Congress and approved in January 2014 as part of a citizen security plan,” he said. “There are around six thousand Uruguayans who are either cultivating for personal use or members cannabis clubs.” “If you want to buy in a pharmacy, prior registration is required and one can only consume up to 40 grams per month,” he said. “This is an experience that is based on the Uruguayan conditions that decided not to penalize personal consumption for decades, but had to enter the illegal market in order to buy. With the new law, users are consuming with a societal legitimacy.” For Romani, there are two certain possibilities: “leave drugs under the control of drug traffickers or controlled by the state and society”.
Starting with the epic song of Peter Tosh Legalize it, Vicki Hanson, a member of the Steering Committee of the Association of Ganja Growers and Producers presented on the ganja movement in Jamaica. Vicki said that in “2015 began with an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, up to 2 ounces or 56 grams, since most young people are being penalized for possession of small amounts of cannabis and we need to expunge the criminal records of those who were found in possession of small amounts. With this, more than 2000 records were expunged. For Hanson “the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act was a recognition of the rights of a society that has been marginalized by the traditional use of ganja”. “A lack a change of attitude within the medical community means that they deny the medical uses of cannabis.” On the other hand, “big companies from Europe and the United States come looking to enter the market, and producers/cultivators are not part of these talks.”
The next speaker was Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, President of the Commission for the decriminalization of marijuana in the CARICOM Region and former president of the Inter-American Commission cannabis Human Rights. To Rose-Marie, “saying that cannabis is a dangerous drug prevents us from doing scientific research to prove the beneficial effects it has.” On the other hand, she said that “decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis does not go far enough towards full decriminalization, which is the ultimate goal.” Finally, she stressed that “society excludes people who use cannabis with moral condemnation, prejudice and ignorance”.
Donald MacPherson, Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition said that “the government of Canada is working aggressively on a public consultation process to bring cannabis regulation to reality” and that polls say that “68 percent of Canadians support a regulated approach.” He also noted that “the governments’ aim to restrict cannabis use to protect young people.” However, he reflected on “how will Canada respect the international drug treaties” and concluded that “Uruguay might consider this a treaty problem, but we must also find an effective regulating mechanism at a regional level. ”
The discussant was Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, a Mexican member of the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists who noted that “the cultivation for personal use by users is what has worked nimbly or at least has achieved more than the current bureaucracy.”
The moderator was Pien Metaal, Project Coordinator for Latin America program Drugs and Democracy Transnational Institute (TNI) – CONFEDROGAS.