MONTEVIDEO, Sept 5, 2012 (AFP) -Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said Wednesday that if parliament were to pass a groundbreaking bill allowing the state to sell marijuana, drug tourism would not be allowed.
In an interview with AFP, Mujica said people buying the drug from the state will have to prove they are Uruguayan.
The bill — which would be a first in Latin America — “is to resolve a problem that we ourselves have. We are not going to accept (drug) consumer tourism,” he said.
The legislation was proposed in June and sent to parliament in August. It has not yet been approved.
The idea is take away at least some of the drug market from traffickers and treat consumers as sick people rather than delinquents, the president said.
He said drug trafficking has gotten so bad in this small South American nation neighboring Brazil and Argentina that Uruguay was seeing deadly settling of scores among drug gangs for the first time.
The bill will not do away with Uruguay’s drug problem, nor does it mean the government wants to encourage people to smoke the drug, he said.
But “we feel that putting it above board, regulating it, can be a lesser evil than what it is happening today,” the president said.
People who buy marijuana from the state health care system would have to identify themselves, which should discourage use. And if the level of use were considered excessive, people would be urged to get help, he added.
The marijuana sold through state channels would also have to be traceable so as to prevent its sale in other countries. “We do not want to harm our neighbors. So the state has to handle this,” Mujica added.