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Monday, September 23, 2013

Buzz on the Street, Piriapolis, Uruguay: Comments on Historic Plan for Legalization of Marijuana

As Uruguay is poised to approve a historic plan to legalize marijuana, several Uruguayans were interviewed at random in the coastal town of Piriapolis. I translated their summarized responses from Spanish to English. They were asked, “Do you agree or disagree with the legalization of marijuana?”

Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben
Nicolas Ruetalo, 31, looks forward to growing marijuana and joining cannabis clubs if Uruguay becomes the first country to regulate the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana. Users would be permitted to cultivate up to six plants at home.
He was interviewed while rolling a marijuana cigarette, sitting on a bench on the Piriapolis boardwalk just before the sun set on Rio de la Plata (photo above ).
Although he favors legalization, he said he has misgivings about the plan. For example, he fears Monsanto’s possible involvement with the production of marijuana because, he charges, the agri-chemical corporation lacks  “ecological sensitivity.”   
Ruetalo, a “bio-builder” of homes made with natural materials, said another negative would be registering as a marijuana user, a requirement to buy the substance from a pharmacy. Buyers registered in a database would be able to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 ounces ) per month, according to the plan.
“What if you are rejected from a job ( because of being on the list )?” Ruetalo asked. “What if there is a change of government ?” The current president, Jose Mujica, backs the measure.
Baglivo: ¨Marijuana is not a necessity¨

Moral Dilemma VS. Business Interest

Carlos Baglivo could reap profits if the Senate approves the plan that has already passed the country’s House of Representatives.   
However, Baglivo, 53, said he wonders if his family-owned pharmacy, La Sierra, should sell marijuana. Some pharmacies would be licensed to sell marijuana to registered users, according to the measure.
Baglivo, who also runs a real estate agency, described his reluctance to sell it. “Marijuana is not a necessity or a medication; drugs are escapist.” At the root of marijuana usage is a societal problem of families who have lost control over their youths, he contends.
Still, he said, his mind was opened to advantages of legalization after he heard a politician’s comments: any illegal substance that involves  large sums of money is detrimental to the country.
Meanwhile before making a decision, Baglivo (photo above ) said he must learn more about the bureaucratic end of selling it.

Plan Could Be Global Blemish

J. Gonzalez (right): " Ojo ! Watch out !" 
Julio Gonzalez says “no” to Uruguay’s legalization plan. “Ojo! Watch out !” 
Gonzalez, 44, who teaches high school chemistry as well as computer skills to adults, said legalization works in some European countries, where public consumption is limited to cafes and driving under the influence is illegal.
However, the Uruguayan plan is far more encompassing. He has doubts about adequate controls. For example, he expects there will still be marijuana robberies under a legalized system. 
Uruguay’s historic experiment may put the country on the world map, but if the plan is not successful, the country will end up as a stain on the map, he contends.

Benitez: "A Matter of Business and Politics"
Marcelo Benitez, 34, owner of the ATP gym (photo above), said legalization does not matter to him. Anyway, he cannot influence the plan, he said. “I imagine it has to do with commercial and political interests.”
In general, Benitez contends that what he says does not matter. “To me, what I project with my feelings matters more than what I say.”

B.D. Gonzalez: Wants Government to Profit 

Blanca Daisy Gonzalez, 71, retired worker of cleaning and cooking services (photo above), said, “it seems like a good thing if it stops drug traffickers. Instead of letting them make money, the money would go to the government.”
According to the plan, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana. The measure aims to divert marijuana users from patronizing drug dealers, who may eventually sell them harder drugs. Buyers must be over 18.

Fernandez: "The forbidden is worse""

Carlos Fernandez, 30, employee of the bookstore, Los Libros (photo right), also said it could be a good source of income for the government. However,  the plan “must be very well controlled and organized by the government.”
“Marijuana use has become so common,” he continued. “People can get it anywhere…All the young people smoke it.” According to Uruguay’s National Drugs Committee, about 22 tons per year are sold in the country with a population of about 3.5 million.  
In addition, Fernandez favors legalization because “the  forbidden is always worse.”
Copyright, 2013, Earthy Reporter, Carola C. Reuben

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