It is possibly somewhat unusual for a columnist at unz.com to be taking orders for marihuana, but I am always open to new income streams, and the brave move of Uruguay on 10th December 2013 to become the first country to legalize marihuana should not go unrewarded.
For those of you who have not been following this story, or have been in too much of a haze for various unspecified reasons to remember the salient points, here is a quick recap.
In a dramatic acceptance of the reality of human nature, or in a craven acquiescence in the face of depravity, the left wing (Ample Front) Government decided at the end of 2013 to make the sale of marihuana legal, subject to some provisions. This innovative move received considerable international attention, particularly from those unused to Uruguayan ways. Things here do not happen in a rush. For example, the beach shower across the road, which had given good service to families for many years, was the subject of a routine municipal inspection last year. The truck full of officials drove into it with such force that it was cleanly fractured at the base, and toppled over. A lamentable mistake, I presume. The base is still there a year later, with the snapped off garden hose still clearly visible in the stub of the concrete pillar. Beach showers are functional objects, and a garden hose set in concrete does the job well enough. Admittedly, in the intervening year they have put up a new shower nearby, a proper wooden post with steel water pipes, but the damaged one has not been removed. At the same time, the noble monument to those lost on The Sea of Eternity was tottering on the cusp of an exposed sand dune for some weeks, and has now lurched downwards, sustained only by the garden hose leading to the new shower. This fate has been evident to bathers for the last few weeks. No sense in rushing things.
Why the delay in delivering State marihuana? The State moves slowly in these parts. Getting permission for something usually takes time, and involves a visit to a Government office, and joining a queue. In a recent interview, the President admitted to three problems regarding implementing their own law: how to register the users, how to protect the growers and how to protect the pharmacists. Pharmacists are held in high regard in Uruguay. Even during national holidays they take it in turns to provide 24 hour cover. They sell a wide range of medicines, including antibiotics, to a discerning public. Many important consultations take place at the prescription counter, and interiors are usually stylish places, with white marble, a disinfected atmosphere and sparkling cabinets of fashionable beauty products. Pharmacists have not taken kindly to the proposal that they should serve drugs to intoxicated and possibly violent users. These are people who settle their business accounts with gunfire. Pharmacists are in no rush to be the front-line troops in a social experiment. In addition to the usual dragging of feet of all officialdom, the pharmacists have dragged each toe in very slow motion. No sense in rushing things. Everything must be done properly, or the Government will be further castigated for encouraging drug use, which grievous aim they stoutly deny. They do not want to add to their troubles. State education, once revered, is now in a poor state. Although improved from previous levels, the PISA 2015 results are very low for what is substantially a European population, drawn from Spanish and Italian immigrants. The country is very far down the rankings. Despite all efforts the results are “Johnny could do better”, and the State system is criticised for favouring the producers, not the consumers, often the case in State monopolies. In contrast, the health system, largely insurance based though available to all, is less subject to criticism.
Perhaps the main objective has already been achieved. Uruguay has achieved a world first, almost as notable as winning the first World Football Cup in 1950. They are the first country to legalise marihuana, and the fact that so far nothing has happened should not, in their view, be held against them. Indeed, this may be the ultimate form of government: a bold new policy is announced, widely applauded, and then quietly shelved. Gesture politics may be the best art form.
For the time being, dear readers, rather than sending me any requests, it may be better to stick with your local supplier. You will thus be able to extol the virtues of the free market, until the Uruguayan State manages to provide supplicants with their permitted 20 gram daily ration of State planted, State harvested, State delivered, fully supervised, controlled and subsidized Government weed. The President promises you will have something to smoke this year. If and when that happens, you won’t even notice that the monument to those who navigate the sea of eternity is about to topple into its own sea of eternity.