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Fri Jun 22, 2012, 02:08 PM

Uruguay says it may sell marijuana to combat cocaine

To fight cocaine, Uruguay may start selling marijuana.

The unusual idea, announced Wednesday by Uruguayan officials, would be one of the boldest steps yet among Latin American leaders to alter a war on drugs driven solely by prohibition, which increasingly is resisted in the Americas as a failed strategy.

Under a plan proposed by President Jose Mujica, marijuana would be sold by the government to adults and the taxes funneled toward drug rehabilitation, according to Uruguayan media. Drug users would be tracked in a government database to quash the resale of marijuana on the black market.

Uruguay has put forward its plan as Latin American leaders express growing frustration with the traditional war on drugs, arguing it has failed to kill off the drug trade or ease violence. Earlier this year, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina suggested decriminalizing drugs. The president of Colombia and other leaders raised the idea at an April summit in Cartagena, spurring a new study of alternative strategies; Brazil and Argentina are already weighing drug decriminalization laws.

Unswayed, President Obama has brushed off the idea of legalizing drugs, saying it isnít the answer. The United States also has resisted carving out exceptions in the drug war, opposing a Bolivian attempt to exempt the traditional practice of chewing coca leaves from a U.N. convention on narcotics. The Uruguayan idea is expected to face the same fears of creating a slippery slope.

ďItís very clear that the U.S. and U.N. drug control system donít look kindly on this kind of opening in the debate,Ē said John Walsh, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America. ďThe United States is looking to put this genie back in the bottle. But thatís not going to happen.Ē


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