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High Level Segment – Statement by Uruguay

It is very important for Uruguay to engage in this open and fruitful dialogue to find alternative ways to achieve the health and welfare of our fellow citizens through a balanced approach.

We urge UNODC cooperation with all UN agencies to promote human rights within the drug control system in a resolution on UNGASS. We must accept the possibility of change in international law. Even though the drug problem is a global phenomenon, it has some national specificities that must be recognised. A broad and fruitful debate is needed on various models. We should persuade policy makers to open dialogue, have a balanced approach.
In 2012, we published a report on the regulation of cannabis markets and proposed a review of our drug policy in search for alternatives to the current policies. It is also necessary to mention the climate of the debate at regional and global level, with Cardoso and Ruth Dreifuss, Kofi Annan and others.

For our country, discussions remain open. The issue of the decriminalisation of cannabis has existed for years in Uruguay. Our law, introduced at that time, does not criminalise the use of any drugs. It is based on our national constitution. For 40 years, we have dealt with thousands of users. We have also observed the emergence of an illicit market. In this context, it is important to underline that in 2010, 78 deaths were related to drug trafficking, but none linked to marijuana.

This is a small country and in the last 12 months, 21,000 people showed signs of problematic use. The age range is 15-64, the mostly used drug is alcohol and tobacco, then tranquilizers, then cannabis. So cannabis has been less troublesome for us. Use is characterised by two factors: no death was linked to cannabis abuse. The non-criminalisation of cannabis has existed for more than 40 years. Our President Jose Mujica has had many occasions to state our position. We do not think we are a model for other countries – this is our own policy.

In December 2013 we created regulated cannabis markets. Mujica said that he was convinced that we were in an unequal war which was costing Uruguay a lot of money to tackle drug trafficking. So what is worse, drugs or drug trafficking? We also wanted to protect public health. The law also prohibits advertising and includes awareness campaigns on the harms, effects, potential risks of use, etc. Children under 18 cannot access psychoactive cabinets for non-medical use. A non-governmental entity was created to manage this.

Chapter 4, para 49 of UNODC ED Contributions: we should recognise and discuss alternative policies. We should reconfirm the spirit of the conventions regionally to protect health. We must focus on the criminal side of trafficking, and focus on health for drug use.

Since 1961, the logic has been imposed on us to criminally control cannabis. We are moving away from the spirit of the conventions with a spiral of endless cycles of violence. All psychoactive substances should be regulated according to how toxic they are.

Mujica speaking at CELAC: we don’t have a magic recipe, but we are trying to find a way out. Our country has the right to implement a public policy that does not harm others, and that promotes the health and seeks to improve the quality of life. We need changes, innovations. And it is what we are doing. We must take all the necessary precautions not to harm other countries. But with tolerance and politics we can put an end to the cycle of violence, and protect the health and lives of our citizens. We have to live up to the responsibility of representing our citizens. There is overwhelming evidence that all policies have failed. It is therefore our duty to face consequences and live up to the challenge.

The full speech in Spanish is available here: http://www.cndblogspanish.org/2014/03/intervencion-de-diego-canepa-en.html

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