CTM have focused on the issue of Cannabis: should it be legal?
Cannabis went legal in Uruguay in 2012 and started to be commercialised in pharmacies just a few weeks ago. The process was no bed of roses and the Uruguayan ex-President José Mujica received several tough critics. His detractors came mainly from the opposition party, turning the legalisation of Cannabis into a political dispute.
“The real problem is not Marijuana, but drug trafficking” assured the Uruguayan ex-President in 2013. This quote is more than right in a part of the American continent where drug traffickers control an important segment of society, and politics and where settling of scores is one of the main causes of death. Legalising Cannabis, the Government controls the whole chain: from cultivation to commercialisation in pharmacies. The game rules are clear: Uruguayan citizens can cultivate Cannabis at home and purchase the official varieties, (called Alfa I and Beta I), in the authorised pharmacies. The prices per gram are lower than in the black market. The quality, apparently better. According to Julio Calzada, Secretary-General of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, more than 12,000 people are now out of the illegal market. This is a big step against drug related organised crime.
Appealing Cannabis medical properties, several Uruguayan and international doctors have applauded the Government’s decision, which turn the Uruguayan Government into a pioneer in its continent. In fact, Cannabis (or more precisely its component THC), has been used for the symptomatic treatment for Multiple Sclerosis since 2005. Patients suffering from acute pain can also benefit from its use as treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this will reduce Opioid analgesic prescription and Opioid addiction in patients. The doses will decrease too.
However, Cannabis is not an innocuous substance. It affects directly brain regions associated with pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, coordination, sensorial, and temporal perception. THC interferes with the correct functioning of the hippocampus and orbital central cortex. Which, in healthy people, can lead to severe psychosis and hallucinations.
In Uruguay, THC content of commercialised Cannabis varieties is also an issue. Apparently, the ones available in pharmacies do not have the amount common users are used to. Several Uruguayan associations of Cannabis consumers criticise this fact, arguing that this might still open a door for the illegal market.
Cannabis is a furore currently in Uruguay. The local website ‘Porro’ (Spanish for ‘joint’), has the data showing in four days, the number of people registered to buy Cannabis increased by 27%. Whether all of them are seeking for the medical applications of THC or not is another question.
Bringing Jose Mujica’s quote back, “The real problem is not Marijuana, but drug trafficking.” The legalisation of Cannabis won’t end drug trafficking in South America, but it is the first step against drug related organised crime. Despite this, Cannabis is still a drug, maybe a soft one, but still one.