Uruguayan President: Time "Not Ripe" for Pot Legalization

José Mujica asked legislators to slow down a legalization initiative.

ByABC News
December 20, 2012, 2:57 PM

Dec. 20, 2012— -- The president of Uruguay is calling on legislators in his party to slow down an initiative to legalize the sale of marijuana, BBC Mundo reports.

Marijuana is already legal for personal use in that country, but a bill proposed by the Uruguayan Congress would legalize growing and selling the drug within certain restrictions.

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President José Mujica said on December 18 that the time "is not ripe" for full legalization, and that "people must be educated."

Observers expect that the legalization bill would pass Congress if put to a vote. But a poll showed that 64 percent of Uruguayans oppose the plan as it stands, and the president has cited public opinion as a reason for the slowdown.

"There is no reason to vote on a law just because it has the majority in parliament," Mujica said. "The majority has to come from the streets. The people have to understand that with violence and putting people in prison the only thing we are doing is helping the drug trafficking market."

The bill would create a government office that would issue licenses to produce, distribute and sell marijuana.

Adults would need to register with the government in order to purchase marijuana and would be limited to purchasing 40 grams of the drug per month, roughly 1.5 ounces. Home grows would also be permitted, but with no more than six plants per household.

The state registry is a sticking point for some concerned about civil liberties. In June, the AP spoke with 28-year-old Natalia Pereira, an occasional marijuana smoker from Montevideo.

"People who consume are not going to buy it from the state," she said. "They're going to mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you."

Mujica has made headlines on social issues in the past. He donates 90 percent of his salary to charity, an act that earned him the title of poorest (or most generous) president in the world.