Drug policy must change in U.S., Europe -Uruguay president

Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:04pm EST
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By Malena Castaldi and Felipe Llambias

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - The United States and Europe need a new strategy in the war on drugs and should look at alternatives such as the regulated sale of marijuana, says Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, whose country recently legalized the production and sale of cannabis.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, the 78-year-old former left-wing guerrilla said the world's largest economies, which are the biggest markets for illegal narcotics, need to tackle drug trafficking using tools other than prohibition.

"The industrial societies are the ones that have to change," he said. "For a small country, it's possible to experiment with this, but it's also very possible for a developed country because of the resources it has."

In December, Uruguay's parliament approved a bill to legalize and regulate the sale and production of marijuana.

The move is being closely watched by countries around the world, some of which are seeking to change anti-drug policies that are widely seen as having failed.

"There are big markets, they have great buying power, and that is a big economic attraction. Until things change there, it will be very difficult to change elsewhere," said Mujica from his home on the outskirts of Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, where he lives in a simple cottage with his wife and dogs.

Mujica pointed to changing laws in other places, including those of U.S. states that have taken steps to decriminalize and even legalize marijuana use, as evidence of an "undeniable evolution" in attitudes.

Washington and Colorado states recently legalized the sale of cannabis under license, although federal law in the United States has not changed.   Continued...

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica holds a news conference at the Uruguayan Presidential Palace in Montevideo, October 2, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Andres Stapff