A government-led “War on Drugs” is a popular attempt to rid the drug lords from states and cities. Some tactics include prohibition, military aid, and military intervention. North and South American countries such as Mexico, Columbia, and Uruguay have been affected by these violent wars on drugs. An interesting thought is that countries not affected by drug-related violence on the same scale have decriminalized the possession of marijuana. For example, the Netherlands permits the sale of marijuana in coffee shops. Both Canada and the US are attempting to legalize marijuana in certain states and provinces.
Opinions about marijuana usage have developed dramatically over the years; whether marijuana use should be considered an illicit activity and how to deal with legal drug use are some questions of concern. On December 2013, President Jose Mujica of Uruguay and the Uruguay government agreed by 16 to 13 notes to legalize the production, buying, and selling of the drug to registered Uruguayans over the age of 18. Citizens are allowed to purchase up to 40 grams of marijuana per month. Uruguay’s decision to legalize the substance is aimed at tackling the rising drug cartels and drug wars occurring in various countries in South America. The legalization of marijuana by the Uruguay government has caused much controversy regarding the authority of international laws surrounding narcotics and their implementation. In light of this, one must ask if there will be a global marijuana revolution.
Oikonomia: Management and Rules of the House
The ancient Greek term for economics is oikonomia (oikos means house and nomos means custom or law) and can be literally translated into the management and rules of the house. The Uruguay government has situated the state as a ‘competitor’ of the drug lords by allowing people to acquire drugs for small-scale recreational or medical purposes. Eventually, the government might manage to take the “illicit” out of drug distribution. If the Uruguay government dictates the rules of the house on drug distribution, it can circumvent and prevent violent interactions between vulnerable parties.
The Implementation and Authority of International Law on Narcotics
President Mujica stated that “I want to rob that illegal business market, and bring it into the light of day.” As the first country to legalize marijuana on a national level, Uruguay has been brought under much scrutiny. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) stated that Uruguay has defied the international laws that surround narcotics. The government’s actions contravene the 1961 convention on narcotic drugs (which Uruguay is a member of). The international law limits the use of marijuana to “medical and scientific purposes.” Uruguay is defying health issues that revolve around the legalization of marijuana (for more information visit the INCB website).
Perhaps one reason the International Law on Narcotics was not taken into consideration is because the convention of 1961 did not meet the realities of drug cartels and rural borders. It seems that the global world is in need of a new convention on narcotics, one that speaks to the realities of global violence and drug wars.
The Global Marijuana Revolution
Will Uruguay’s move to legalize marijuana force the US to reevaluate its drug policies? More importantly, what needs to be reassessed is the INCB 1961 constitution; its laws need to take the realities of today’s more connected and globalized society into consideration. A balance between moral concerns and drug use, and the necessity of undermining the illegal drug trade need to be taken into account when drafting new legislation.