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INTERVIEW-Drug policy must change in U.S., Europe -Uruguay president

Source: Reuters - Thu, 13 Feb 2014 21:25 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Malena Castaldi and Felipe Llambias

MONTEVIDEO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The United States and Europe need a new strategy in the war on drugs and should look at alternatives such as the regulated sale of marijuana, says Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, whose country recently legalized the production and sale of cannabis.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, the 78-year-old former left-wing guerrilla said the world's biggest economies, which are the biggest markets for illegal narcotics, need to tackle drug trafficking using tools other than prohibition.

"The industrial societies are the ones that have to change," he said. "We are trying to find a path. ... For a small country, it's possible to experiment with this, but it's also very possible for a developed country because of the resources it has."

In December, Uruguay's parliament approved a bill to legalize and regulate the sale and production of marijuana.

The move is being closely watched by countries around the world, some of which are seeking to change anti-drug policies that are widely seen as having failed.

Mujica pointed to changing laws elsewhere, including those of U.S. states that have taken steps to decriminalize and even legalize marijuana use, but he said there was a long way to go before reaching a consensus on what works best.

"There are big markets, they have great buying power, and that is a big economic attraction. Until things change there, it will be very difficult to change elsewhere," said Mujica from his home on the outskirts of Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, where he lives in a simple cottage with his wife and dogs. (Reporting by Felipe Llambias and Malena Castaldi, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Kieran Murray and Douglas Royalty)

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