Monday, January 13, 2014

Reports: Increase in Argentines Smuggling Pot from Uruguay

Marijuana tourism” has allegedly boomed in the U.S. state of Colorado ever since a law permitting the recreational use of the drug went into effect on January 1st.  A similar case appears to be occurring several thousand miles away in Uruguay where a major marijuana legalization proposal became law nearly one month ago.

Officials in neighboring Argentina have reported an uptick in the number of residents caught trying to smuggle marijuana after having visited Uruguay.  Three to four people per day are allegedly caught with cannabis in their attempt to return to Argentina via points of entry such as ferry terminals and major airports.  This increase is said to be “unprecedented” compared to previous end-of-the-year holiday breaks.

Federal prosecutors subsequently intervened and most cases were rapidly closed since the amount of marijuana found was small and did not break Argentine law allowing “personal doses” of the drug.
As long as the marijuana is “not shown off ostentatiously and found discreetly within the luggage” then it is not a punishable offense, according to unnamed “judicial sources” cited in news reports.

The new law permits the sale of up to 1.4 ounces of cannabis to registered users over the age of 18 via a government-regulated marketplace.  Yet the pilot program is expected to go into effect later this year and it bars tourists from legally purchasing marijuana in the South American country.

“This is not like the Netherlands… (The Uruguayan government) is not promoting in any shape or form tourism related to marijuana” said Uruguayan Tourism Minister Benjamín Liberoff in an interview weeks ago with the Europa Press. 

He also denied that a spike in requests for residency in Uruguay are related to marijuana legalization and could be because of “other laws such as allowing same-sex marriage…or economic growth that we’ve enjoyed in recent years.”

Critics of Uruguay’s marijuana decriminalization like the International Narcotics Control Board warned that the law violates international agreements and would lead to greater marijuana addiction.  On the other hand, supporters such as President José Mujica claimed the plans would help curb crime rates and reduce drug trafficking. 

Several ex-presidents from the region including Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Colombia’s Cesar Gaviria have called on modifying the “war on drugs”.  Meanwhile, other notable antidrug figures from South America have recently urged a change in tactics:
“Let’s open a forum,” (former director of Peru’s anti-drug commission) Ricardo Soberón said last week, according to Peruvian broadcaster RPP Noticias. “First on the topic of health, second on the topic of citizen security and the implications of its use”…

The head of Argentina’s anti-drug agency, Juan Carlos Molina, also called for his country to take a hint from Uruguay and reconsider its strategy. 

“Argentina deserves a good debate about this,” Juan Carlos Molina said shortly after the Uruguayan vote, according to Argentine daily La Nación. “We have the capacity to do to it, let’s not underestimate ourselves.”
Video Source– BBC News via YouTube

Online Sources –; La Republica; Huffington Post; Buenos Aires Herald; BBC News; Europa Press; New York Daily News

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