Aug. 15, 2013— -- Uruguay's president wants his country to legalize weed. But deep down inside, he thinks that love is all you really need.
When asked recently on CNN en Español if the legalization of marijuana would encourage people to seek harder drugs, President José Mujica denied that pot was a gateway drug.
"It's actually the opposite," he said. "People seek crack and other more dangerous poisons when they have no access to marijuana."
But Mujica also emphasized that he was no fan of marijuana consumption.
"Do not think that I am defending marijuana," Mujica continued. "I declare that love is the only healthy addiction on the face of the Earth. All the other addictions are a plague, whose harm has varying degrees."
The love quote made for a wonderful headline, of course, and was widely reported in Latin American papers.
But the rest of the interview also provided some useful insights on the 78-year-old leader's philosophy on drugs and their prohibition in the United States and elsewhere.
"Isn't it too much to allow each Uruguayan to buy 30 marijuana cigarettes each month?" CNN host Andres Oppenheimer asked Mujica.
"It's 30 grams," Mujica clarified. "And the advantage [of Uruguay's legalization policy] is that we can identify who is consuming. If we identify consumers, we can help them. If we criminalize them and keep them underground, we steer them towards drug dealers and wash our hands of responsibility."
Mujica said in the interview that he would offer tax breaks to TV networks that air programs aimed at "combating addiction."
He argued that the U.S. should relax its war on drugs and "give a hand" to Latin American countries that are trying to legalize some drugs, in order to reduce fighting between criminal groups.
"We had 80 deaths from drug-related violence last year, and only 3 or 4 deaths from drug overdoses," Mujica said of Uruguay, which has a population of 3 million people. "So what is worse: drug trafficking, or drug consumption?"
Mujica admitted, however, that marijuana legalization is not a flawless policy -- and that it is subject to change.
"We are intellectually honest, so if reality shows us that we have made a mistake, we will change course," Mujica said. "We're not just trying to satisfy some sort of selfish impulse here."