The long process of legalizing marijuana production in Uruguay continues to inch forward, under the watchful eye of other countries in the region considering similar measures.
As of August 29, 54 individuals in Uruguay had registered to legally grow up to six cannabis plants in their homes, reported Spanish newspaper El Pais. In order to receive a personal license, individuals only had to present identification and proof of residence.
In addition, 22 companies are currently competing to win one of the five available government licenses to commercially produce marijuana. These companies -- of which eight are Uruguayan, ten are foreign, and four are joint ventures -- will supply pharmacies. The five-year licenses, which companies will be able to renew, require commercial producers to grow more than one ton of marijuana per year.
Although there have been several delays in the implementation of the law, selected companies are expected to begin cultivation in November.
InSight Crime Analysis
The registry of over 50 individuals demonstrates that in spite of considerable delays and significant opposition to the legislation among Uruguayans, the government is moving forward with plans to legalize the cultivation and consumption of marijuana for recreational use.
Uruguay's legislation is widely regarded as a test case for other countries in the region considering alternative solutions to the illegal drug problem. Despite a growing consensus in Latin America that drugs should be treated as a health issue, many criminal justice systems are still enforcing punitive measures against consumers, even in countries that have decriminalized personal drug use.
SEE ALSO: Uruguay News and Profile
According to President Jose Mujica, one of the main objectives in legalizing marijuana is to combat drug trafficking in the region. However, given Uruguay's relatively high level of security, the effects of marijuana legalization on organized crime will not necessarily be indicative of results for countries with more established criminal groups such as Colombia and Guatemala, which have also called for more lenient drug policies.
In addition, it is unlikely international drug trafficking groups will be greatly affected by marijuana legalization in Uruguay, due to the small size of its domestic drug market. However, if marijuana were to be legalized in countries with larger markets, the impact on international drug cartels would be more significant.
InSight Crime's recent field research on the Paraguayan border with Brazil found that 70 percent of marijuana production leaving Paraguay -- the largest producer of marijuana in South America -- is destined for consumption in Brazil. If Brazil were to someday legalize the consumption and cultivation of marijuana, these government-regulated prices would likely undercut Paraguayan traffickers and severely impact drug trafficking in the Southern Cone.