Uruguay's government has launched a public awareness campaign to sway public opinion in favor of an initiative to legalize marijuana, in what it says is an attempt to reduce drug-related violence.
The plan was first proposed last year by President Jose Mujica, and has since evolved from its original form, which called for a state monopoly on the sale and production of the plant.
The plan now allows for the creation of private cannabis cooperatives, or "membership clubs," that will be regulated by a National Institute of Cannabis.
The bill was expected to pass last year, but Mujica did not submit it to a vote after a poll revealed that 64 percent of the population opposed the proposal. Mujica backed off, stating that public opinion should match the initiative and that education was necessary.
Starting this week, the National Drug Council will now be presenting debates and discussions to draw awareness to the purported benefits of the initiative.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Mujica administration is in part framing the marijuana legalization debate as a way to fight the rise in drug violence. Last year was the most violent year on record for Uruguay, with 8.71 homicides per 100,000, a rise of 45 percent compared to 2011.
However, with marijuana already decriminalized, the trade does not appear to be significantly fueling the rise in violence, which is more likely linked to an expanding domestic cocaine market and the use of the country as a shipment point for transnational criminal organizations.