Saturday, December 14, 2013
The Country That Dared Challenge The Great War on Marijuana
It's a small country of just over three million people wedged between Argentina and Brazil.
But little Uruguay has just done what other bigger countries have never dared to do: legalize the production and sale of marijuana.
And for that I see is already attracting the unwanted attention of the Drug Czars at the United Nations.
Uruguay's decision to legalise the production, sale and consumption of marijuana violates international law, the UN drugs watchdog says. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned that the move would endanger young people and "contribute to the earlier onset of addiction".
The ones who would spend billions, jail millions, prop up violent criminal cartels, and turn countries into police states, all in the name of the insane Great War on Drugs.
So I'm with Simon Jenkins eh? I think that little country deserves a Nobel Peace prize for having the guts to do the right thing.
The catastrophe of death and anarchy that failed drug suppression has brought to Mexico and to other narco-states makes the west's obsessive war on terror seem like a footling sideshow. The road out of this darkness is now being charted not in the old world but in the new, whose heroic legislators deserve to be awarded a Nobel peace prize.
It is they who have taken on the challenge of fighting the one world war that really matters – the war on the war on drugs. It is significant that the bravest countries are also the smallest. Thank heavens for small states.
To which I would only add thank heavens for people like the amazing Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.
If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay's president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle.
He fought the country's fascist military regime in the 1970s, was shot six times, spent 14 years in prison, including two years in solitary isolation at the bottom of a well. But like Nelson Mandela, did not allow bitterness to stop him from doing great things.
Since becoming leader of Uruguay in 2010, however, he has won plaudits worldwide for living within his means, decrying excessive consumption and pushing ahead with policies on same-sex marriage, abortion and cannabis legalisation that have reaffirmed Uruguay as the most socially liberal country in Latin America.
Or from challenging the power and the values of our capitalist system.
"I'm just sick of the way things are. We're in an age in which we can't live without accepting the logic of the market," he said. "Contemporary politics is all about short-term pragmatism. We have abandoned religion and philosophy … What we have left is the automatisation of doing what the market tells us."
Or from telling the Drug Czars at the United Nations today to go take a hike.
José “Pepe” Mujica shot back on Friday at the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, a U.N. agency, for saying that his administration refused to meet with the agency’s officials before legalizing marijuana this week.
“Tell this old guy not to lie,” Mujica told reporters, according to Colombian daily El Espectador. “Any guy in the street can meet with me. Let him come to Uruguay and meet with me whenever he wants… He thinks that because he’s in an international position, he can tell whatever lie he wants.”
Which makes him my kind of President eh? And makes most other politicians in the West look like cardboard cutouts.
And the really depressing part? Canada could have been the first country to legalize marijuana. In 1972 the Le Dain commission broke new ground with its recommendations.
In 2005 we came so close, but we never had the guts to do the right thing. And then came Stephen Harper and his Cons to do the wrong thing, and jail even more people for the "crime" of smoking marijuana.
Oh well. Too bad for Canada. Born to follow not lead.
Long live Jose Mujica.
And three cheers for little Uruguay…
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