Tiny Uruguay barely matches North Dakota in GDP, but with a few tweaks it could be the blueprint for the roll out of cannabis legalization in other nations.
A new policy paper released by the Brookings Institution shines the spotlight on the South American nation for a clearer look at the lessons that can be learned from the world’s first country to legalize and implement adult-use cannabis sales.
The country with a population of 3 million legalized cannabis in 2013 — starting sales in July 2017 — to head off a fervent black market flush with “brick weed,” or pressed cannabis, from Paraguay. The law hasn’t won many popularity contests, but it has survived two presidential administrations, researchers said.
“It’s always hard to go first, but it’s not as hard to go second and third,” said John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management for the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
Hudak partnered with researchers from the Washington Office on Latin America to explore how Uruguay’s cannabis laws came to be, what’s played out since, and what changes could be made to ensure their effectiveness.
“There’s been a real commitment to the rule of law and to the continuation of policy that I think is quite impressive in Uruguay,” Hudak said.
Uruguay’s law was “bold and cautious” so as to accomplish the goal of combating drug trafficking while staying attuned to concerns that could arise from the international community, he said.
Skepticism about the state runs deep in many Latin American countries because of their histories with dictatorships and atrocities committed against society, he said.
“And government lists are something that scare Latin Americans … there is a real lasting memory of that sort of behavior across the continent,” he said.