Social Experiments and What They Have Taught Us – Part 2

By Simon Doherty

Uruguay

Tolerance Level: Coming in 2015 – State sales to be legal and use amongst adults legal

Two years into his presidential term the progressive and forward thinking left-wing politician José Mujica, 79, decided that he was sick of the profit that drug trafficking was generating for criminals in his small South American nation. He also despised the violence and the social deprivation that was associated with illegal drugs so he constructed a strategy to alleviate some of his country’s problems. In June 2012 he announced his plan to legalise state sales of cannabis. Users, who will be required to register, would be permitted to grow and pass on small amounts of bud in non-commercial settings. The government’s weed industry and quality control of the product will be regulated by their current institutions that oversee the sales of alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.

Fast-forward over a year and the bill has passed, interested parties are being handed licences to grow weed for the government and the black market vendors are looking at being left out in the cold as Mujica will effectively undercut them at $1 per gram. Plans are being drawn for cannabis users to buy their smoke directly from the government at a rate of 40g per month or grow in one’s own home at a rate of 480g annually. Thinking of booking a flight right now? Don’t. Sales will be banned for foreigners.

In new developments last month, however, the Uruguayan government have postponed the roll out of the new law until 2015. This was reportedly due to logistical complications in the implementation of the policy. Despite this, the new experiment seems to be gathering momentum already. For instance, the Association of Cannabis Studies of Uruguay is currently registering with the Education and Culture Ministry which will ultimately see them become an official cannabis growing outfit.

So when this is eventually rolled out nationwide in 2015 what will be the implications of this policy? I can hear the prohibitionist cry now; a surge in crime! A breakdown of traditional values! Spontaneous human combustion! Their disdain for common sense is particularly pungent. However, only time will tell.

“If we want to do this sloppily, it is not hard to do that; that’s what the United States is doing. But if we want to get this right…we are going to have to do it slowly.” José Mujica

Legalise marijuana Uruguay

British Columbia, Canada

Tolerance Level: Illegal, with the exception of medical patients/Some reports of tolerance

Ok, I would like to start this segment with a tale. Last year I found myself in a bar in the popular ski resort Whistler, BC. I had just arrived in the country and it was quite late at night. After enduring a 9 hour flight and defiantly not willing to risk any sort of skirmish with scary Canadian custom officials I was in need of a stiff joint. Anyway, I walked into this bar which seemed like a lively mix of locals and snow sports enthusiasts and I was quietly confident I would be able to score there and then on the spot.

The first individual I asked was not impressed at all, but the second simply went to the toilets where he whipped out about an ounce, of stinking green, before passing over around 4gs which I secreted in my inside pocket. He asked me how much I wanted to pay and I, having been in a few situations like this before, knew to go in low.

 “20 dollars?” [£10.88]

“Yeah no problem”

That confused me at the time and I later found out I had been ripped off, it’s absurdly cheap. Upon inspection I learnt that the bud was Kush, properly cured, and quite apparently professionally grown; the infamous BC Bud. The scene described above played itself out several times over the following 10 days, all with the same result, albeit with different faces, locations and accents. And the weed was strong, as my companion found out when he became too stoned to ski and had to snow plough all the way down the mountain, which took him over an hour – you know who you are.

So what is the situation with weed in British Columbia? We have all heard the great reviews. Well I happen to have a friend over there so I asked him. He informed me that he has a medical licence for his migraines so can smoke with pretty much impunity providing he takes care not to light up around children.

Basically, the combination of hydroelectric power, vast amounts of sun, tall hills, deep forests and good hiding spots, or ‘Camo Grows’ as they’re known in the trade, spanning a significant geographical area means that BC is perfect for growing bud. Cannabis is the number one cash crop in the region and the local industry was worth a staggering $6 billion in 2003 according to the Canadian Parliament. Despite the illegality of the plant there is clearly a lot about. So what have the implications of having the streets, I think it’s fair to say, awash with dank bud been? Well, according to a report by local criminology professor Neil Boyd in 2014, the province is spending more money prosecuting citizens for cannabis related offences than any other. He also points out that the prevalence of use is roughly the same in each province at around 7%. The cost to tax payers of policing possession charges in 2011 was $10.5 million. So it seems at the moment the people benefiting from the largest cash crop in the area are predominantly the criminal fraternity.

Introducing BC bud

*All stories may be merely fictional

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