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Uruguay in marijuana dealing plan

A plan by Uruguay's leaders to turn the government into the nation's marijuana dealer has been presented to Congress.

President Jose Mujica's entire cabinet signed up to the proposed law, which aims to take over an illegal marijuana trafficking business estimated to be worth 30 million to 40 million US dollars (£19 million to £25 million) a year.

The law would allow the government to control marijuana imports, production, sale and distribution, creating a legal market for people to get pot without turning to riskier illegal drugs.

The text submitted to Congress says the drug war has been a failure and that marijuana is only mildly addictive, unlike "cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and psychotropic drugs".

But MPs are divided on the idea, even within Mr Mujica's Broad Front coalition of leftist parties and social groups.

Mr Mujica has said he will push the plan only if it gets at least 60% support in polls. An official in the president's press office said the bill is not expected to advance quickly.

The text says the project's goals include "the normalisation and full social acceptance of marijuana use" so consumers are not "stigmatised, nor treated as criminals".

Instead, it proposes education about the risks of marijuana use. The presidency's website said a National Drug Council would organise meetings to "facilitate reflection" on this point.

The text sent to Congress added that "marijuana has been for many years the most-consumed illegal substance" in Uruguay, and "has an important level of legitimacy in Uruguayan society".

It also cited precedents for various levels of decriminalisation of marijuana possession in the Netherlands, Australia, Spain and several US states.

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