Uruguay has hit upon a rather inspired idea for fighting crime—something explored here in America by certain drug legalization advocates, Libertarians, anarchists, and a host of other individuals and groups: legalize marijuana to combat crime.
It should be noted, however, that in Uruguay marijuana use has never been criminalized. This is the exact opposite of what the U.S. government has done with Obama’s recent anti-marijuana crusade (an electoral move).
According to the Associated Press, Leftist government, which is getting attacked from no less than Fox News, would like to sell marijuana in order to take power away from drug dealers. While it sounds absurd to have a government selling marijuana—the power should be given to any legitimate business that wishes to do so—it is a far more inspired idea than fighting a defensive drug war that overloads prisons and wrecks individual and family lives in the process.
Another problem with Uruguay’s move is that those who purchase marijuana would be put on a government database. This runs counter to civil liberty ideals, but Uruguay says the fight isn’t just against drug trafficking but “consumption.” Perhaps this is mere public relations positioning, because marijuana isn’t exactly killing or harming the number of people as, say, alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs and hard narcotics.
And will people opt to buy from the Uruguyan government if they know their names will be put on a database? It doesn’t seem likely (especially given that some pot users are paranoid when it comes to the government). And if they opt to find their marijuana elsewhere, then that will keep the black market open.
“If they actually sell it themselves, and you have to go to the Uruguay government store to buy marijuana, then that would be a precedent for sure, but not so different than from the dispensaries in half the United States,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of U.S.-based NORML, an organization that advocates decriminalization of marijuana use.