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Uruguay May Legalize Marijuana

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URUGUAY (CNN) - Uruguay is considering legalizing the production of marijuana.   A certain green, leafy plant brought to you for your pleasure by your very own government.  It may sound like a far-fetched idea in the United States, but in the small South American nation of Uruguay that's exactly what the government is proposing.

TRANSLATION: Three out of the four most consumed drugs are already legal: alcohol, the most popular; tobacco, the second most popular; medications and the fourth one, marijuana, which is consumed by approximately 300,000 people.

Marijuana possession for personal use is already legal in Uruguay, but production and distribution is not.  The proposal by President Jose Mujica is to have the government control its production and sale.  Government officials say the money drug traffickers currently get would eventually go to public coffers.

TRANSLATION:  It has been internationally recognized that separating the market for marijuana from other drugs has substantially positive effects for the welfare of the population.

Legalizing drugs is not necessarily a new concept in Latin America.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has proposed legalizing some drugs in Central America as a joint solution for rampant violence in the region caused by drug trafficking.

Former President Vicente Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, says legalization is a way of reducing violence.

"When violence reached its peak in Chicago a hundred years ago with alcohol prohibition, the only answer and solution came by authorizing again, back again, the consumption of alcohol."

But other leaders like Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos say legalization by individual countries may have negative implications for the region.

"I agree that we have to discuss where we are and where to go, but talking about legalization at this moment is counterproductive unless it's a world approach."

"What Uruguay is proposing is not necessarily a free-for-all legalization of drugs. The proposal that includes legalizing the production of marijuana is a full social policy package that includes increasing prison time for traffickers of cocaine. Passage of the bill is a good possibility as the president's party also controls the parliament.  Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta."