MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguay government apparently plans to take a step beyond legalizing marijuana: It wants to become the first government in the world to sell it.
Local news media cited unnamed ruling-party lawmakers saying that the government planned to send a bill to Congress on Wednesday that would legalize marijuana sales as a crime-fighting measure.
Only the government would be allowed to sell the marijuana cigarettes, and only to adults who register on a government database when buying the drug to keep track of their purchases over time.
Uruguay's presidency did not immediately confirm the report, but told The Associated Press in an email statement that an official announcement later could include "the marijuana issue."
Uruguayan newspaper reports about the bill said that people who use more than a limited number of marijuana cigarettes would have to undergo drug rehabilitation and that money from taxes on the cigarettes would go to rehabilitating addicts.
But some Uruguayans wondered how successful such a measure could be.
"People who consume are not going to buy it from the state," said Natalia Pereira, 28, adding that she smokes marijuana occasionally. "They're going to be mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you."
A debate over the move lit up social media networks in the country, with some people worried about free sales of marijuana and others joking about it.
"Legalizing marijuana is not a security measure," one man in the capital of Uruguay wrote on his Twitter account.
"Ha, ha, ha!" joked another. "I can now imagine you going down to the kiosk to buy bread, milk and a little box of marijuana."
The idea is to weaken crime by removing profits from drug dealers and diverting users from harder drugs.
"The main argument for this is to avoid addicts from dealing and reaching (crack-like) substances like base paste," said Juan Carlos Redin a psychologist who works with drug addicts in Montevideo. "Some studies conclude that a large number of base paste consumers first looked for milder drugs like marijuana and ended with freebase."
Redin said Uruguayans should be allowed to grow their own marijuana because the government would run into trouble if it tries to sell it. The big question he said will be, "Who will provide the government (with marijuana)?"
By PABLO FERNANDEZ
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