Why Uruguay Matters!

José “Pepe” Mujica, the President of Uruguay, will go down in history as a great leader.

Uruguay is the first among all of the civilised countries of the United Nations to fully opt out of the International Cannabis Madness.

Time for some widespread celebration folks.

The particular thing that sets José apart is that he seems to be a politician who has managed to make the transition into incumbency without also instantly becoming a drug law hypocrite. He seems to be saying the same things after his election as he promised before his elevation! (Hmmmm? Very odd indeed.) And while this consistency is something that has been entirely beyond the abilities of any other International Statesman or Politician during the whole of the modern age, it seems to be working for Jose! More significantly – it is working for the benefit of Uruguayan citizens: and us!

President Mujica will happily point out to anyone who might ask that cannabis is actually ‘relatively harmless’. That the scientific advice is unambiguous: that cannabis is simply not a dangerous narcotic. In fact, like virtually all other thinking residents of the globe, the President of Uruguay is happy to acknowledge in public that Cannabis kills nobody; and, in the scheme of things, is actually a pretty benign substance. (Ho-hum). In a sentence: that cannabis just doesn’t warrant all of the fuss!

For your average Joe in the street this is nothing. It is simply a statement of the obvious. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and ‘the man’ is full of bullshit! However for a President Jose to say this is another thing entirely. As a result an unexpected and entirely unprecedented attack of rationality seems to be sweeping the United Nations.

“Cannabis is controlled under the 1961 Convention, which requires States Parties to limit its use to medical and scientific purposes, due to its dependence-producing potential,” said the UN International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) president Raymond Yans. This “will not protect young people but rather have the perverse effect of encouraging early experimentation, lowering the age of first use, and thus contributing to developmental problems and earlier onset of addiction and other disorders,” he announced in a press release.

“Tell this old guy not to lie,” Mujica responded to the Colombian daily, El Espectador. Which is fair enough. I mean: what else are you going to say?

Everyone knows the INCB is simply not going to be persuaded by ‘facts’. After all the INCB is the voice of the most hardline and enthusiastic of international advocates for the ‘War on Drugs’. However few realise that the INCB is simply an advisory body to the UN. But our President Jose knows this. So the President is refreshingly intolerant of American hypocrisy. The INCB concluded its admonition of Uruguay by noting that: “The Board regrets that the Government of Uruguay did not respond to INCB to engage in a dialogue prior to further consideration of the law” and that it “reiterates its call to the Government of Uruguay to engage with the Board to ensure that Uruguay continues to respect and implement the treaties to which it is a party.”

Mujica just pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of ‘the West’. After pointing out that the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington have already legalized weed, and that their combined populations well exceed the population of Uruguay, he asked the obvious question: “Do they have two discourses, one for Uruguay and another for those who are strong?”

So it is refreshing that President José has obviously decided that he had tolerated far too much American bullshit. The king has no clothes, everyone knows it, and it is simply good politics to side with ‘everyone’ on this one. But it must be noted that this has more to do with populist politics than it has to do with a burning passion for the difficulties enjoined by the poorest in the land.

In almost every other respect, in this author’s jaded eye, the Uruguayan President appears to be a reasonably ordinary or even ‘bland’ politician. However by taking a populist position regarding cannabis he has managed to draw to himself a (perhaps unwarranted) aura more befitting a revolutionary. This having been said: there is no denying that the cannabis law reform efforts which have been announced do enjoy broad support within the country and has unified a huge raft of disparate voices in support what might otherwise be just another entirely forgettable President.

By re-legalising the production and sale of cannabis in Uruguay the new President has simply removed a whole class of social and institutional problems and taken them on himself as a national policy load. In other words: by taking the heat on himself, lots of people who were being hassled for no reason will now look to José as being their saviour and mentor.

Lots of Uruguayan citizens who were being oppressed by their own government, because of a lie, and on behalf of a foreign power, are now free to enjoy their natural right to smoke a bit of choof. With any luck the greatest gift to the world of International Politics that President Mujica will leave behind will be a model for a populist politician to embrace cannabis law reform both before and after their elevation to office.

Uruguay is a call to arms for all politicians! You don’t have to sustain the ‘big lie’. Change is possible. Just ask José!

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