Friday, November 11, 2016

Uruguay advancing in cannabis legislation implementation (Nov. 11, 2016)

Uruguay's landmark marijuana legislation continues to move forward at a measured pace. Three years after the cannabis law was passed, the final commercial phase -- commercial sales -- is set to start within a few weeks. A new WOLA report by Geoff Ramsey praises the cautious implementation, which has given authorities time to adjust their approaches. 

"Uruguay’s government makes no pretense that its law should be a model for others. But Uruguay’s leaders also know that, as the first nation to legalize and regulate every level of the cannabis market, their new system will be coming under close scrutiny, at home and abroad. As citizens and leaders elsewhere ponder whether and how to legalize and regulate cannabis in their own countries, the lessons to be learned in Uruguay can help inform cannabis policy well beyond the country’s own borders," he writes

Key findings of the report include
  • Budgetary obstacles for the country's new cannabis regulatory agency
  • Elements of the law that need to be reexamined -- including the single price point for all marijuana regardless of potency, and regulations limiting users to one of the three methods of legal access (home-growing, cannabis clubs, or commercial purchase).
  • Lack of coordination among institutions associated with cannabis regulation.
  • A potential for greater commitment to monitoring on part of the Vázquez administration: "Researchers complain of not only a lack of access to official data, but also that officials have been slow or uncooperative in approving important research on cannabis-related issues. This has made it unnecessarily difficult for authorities to benefit from independent analysis of cannabis trends and policy in the country.
"Fortunately for Uruguayan authorities, the law has considerable regulatory flexibility built into it, such as the regulations concerning the price for commercial cannabis and the mutual exclusivity of the three methods of access. As a result of this flexibility, the government is in a position to take advantage of its power to adjust the rules governing the newly-legal cannabis market in accordance with new insights gained from monitoring and evaluation."

On U.S. international pot policy

U.S. voters in several states -- notably California -- approved marijuana legalization initiatives this week. That means it will be harder for the U.S. to oppose legalization efforts elsewhere in the region, writes John Walsh for WOLA. The impact could be especially relevant for Mexico, which shares a border with California. "Can Mexico continue to spend its money and put its citizens’ lives at risk to conduct eradication and interdiction operations meant to stop cannabis from entering the United States, when cannabis is being produced, sold, taxed, and consumed legally just across the border," he asks.

News Briefs
  • Talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition under Vatican mediation are set to continue today, but neither side is very optimistic, according to the Associated Press. The opposition is insisting on a recall referendum, and the government seems uninclined to accede. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has promised to try to rollback Obama administration policies towards Cuba, many of which were carried out through executive order, which can be easily undone. But the relaxing of regulations was done with the aim of securing benefits for businesses and travelers that would make reversal difficult, reports Reuters. In particular rolling back commercial initiatives would be problematic, reports the Miami Herald. U.S. companies have made inroads in Cuba -- including telecom, cruise lines, airlines, and AirBNB -- and might be entitled to compensation if regulations permitting their business were rolled back.
  • Mexico's peso continued to slump yesterday against the dollar as markets responded to Trump's victory Tuesday, reports Reuters. The trend is likely to continue until there is more clarify regarding Trump's policies toward the country, say experts
  • Brazilian politicians are increasing efforts to undermine the massive investigation into corruption at Petrobras, according to a lead prosecutor in the case interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The legislative and judicial branches of government find themselves in a power struggle over the issue.
  • Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has accused her successor and former VP, President Michel Temer, of accepting an illicit $295,000 campaign donation, reports the BBC. If the evidence her lawyers presented to the supreme electoral court is accepted, there is the possibility that the 2014 presidential election could be declared invalid due to campaign funding violations, forcing Temer from office, reports the Guardian.
  • Haitian interim President Jocelerme Privert warned that the country is on the brink of a serious food crisis, and facing worsening levels of malnutrition. Losses from last month's Hurricane Matthew were equal to the country's entire national budget, he told the BBC. Even before the massive destruction of the storm, the country was facing a food crisis this year. (See Feb. 10's post.)
  • Central planning certainly hasn't worked for Cuba's economy, but all the evidence shows that transitions into neoliberal free market capitalism won't be any better for the average citizen. Instead the government must seek "to build the solid institutional framework that has been termed 'the developmental state,'" argue Milford Bateman and Jonathan Glennie in the Guardian.
  • Individual vigilante killings of alleged criminals are a new trend in Mexico, reports the Guardian. The "justicieros" have the approval of nearly half the population, tired of high rates of crime and violence. It's an interesting evolution of the "lynch mob" trend seen around the region in recent years. (See this week's New Yorker piece on Venezuela, for a recent example.)
  • Mexico's government is is offering a reward of $730,000 for information leading to the capture of the former governor of Veracruz state, Javier Duarte, accused of money laundering and corruption, reports the Associated Press.
  • Clashes between the "uncontacted", nomadic Mashco Piro tribe and sedentary indigenous communities in Peru are occurring with more frequency. Three people died last week in an encounter between the groups, reports Reuters. (See Aug. 3's briefs on an in-depth New Yorker piece on the Mashco Piro, as well as briefs for July 22, 2015.)
  • Argentina's economy will grow by 3 percent per year for the next five, according to the IMF. But in its first formal review in a decade, the IMF cautioned that the "outlook is subject to greater-than-normal uncertainty," reports the Wall Street Journal.

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