The Daily Bell

Uruguay becomes first nation to legalise marijuana trade … The Uruguayan government hopes legalising the sale of marijuana will tackle drug cartels … Uruguay’s cannabis bill reflects liberal past … Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana. After nearly 12 hours of debate, senators gave the government-sponsored bill their historic final approval. The law allowing registered Uruguayans over 18 to buy up to 40g (1,4oz) of the drug a month is not expected to come into force before April. The government hopes it will help tackle drug cartels, but critics say it will expose more people to drugs. – BBC

Dominant Social Theme: This is great. Uruguay strikes a blow against prohibition.

Free-Market Analysis: Are considerations regarding Monsanto’s business progress in South America behind the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay?

George Soros was a significant supporter of marijuana legalization in Uruguay, and Soros is reportedly also a big Monsanto shareholder. Here, from a recent Guardian article, published just before the bill passed:

Rich countries debating legalisation of cannabis are also watching the bill, which philanthropist George Soros has supported as an “experiment” that could provide an alternative to the failed US-led policies of the long “war on drugs”.

In South America, Monsanto has found it rough going. Its business practices have been questioned in Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay. And it recently lost a lawsuit in Peru over its practice of suing farmers who inadvertently plant its windblown seed on their own soil.

Here from Lab.Org, Uruguay:

Monsanto recently signed an agreement with the National Institute of Agricultural Investigation (INIA). “This was done very quietly”, says says Pablo Galeano, from the leading non-governmental organisation REDES. “Our job in REDES is to uncover these cases and, if we find something wrong, denounce it,” says Galeano.

At the same time as Monsanto has faced increased difficulty with its soy products in South America, the giant agricultural concern has been expanding its marijuana technology.

Here from ChicagoNow.com:

Is Monsanto Ready to Enter The Medical Marijuana War? … As legally allowed medical marijuana becomes more widespread, it is no surprise that many are realizing there is legal money to be made off of this traditionally illegal cash crop.

… With so many dollar signs hanging in the air, ready to be snatched, it is no surprise to see agriculture giant Monsanto may be getting poised to jump into selling genetically modified marijuana as well.

… Monsanto GMO seeds are genetically modified to produce plants that are resistant to chemical herbicides, and the most commonly known one is Round-Up. The herbicides kill all other plants, but the genetically altered plants are able to resist the herbicide and are able to planted closer together than traditional crops allowing farmers to gain greater yields from the same amount of farmland.

These seeds are known as being “Round-Up Ready,” and farmers are required to purchase new seed each season for their crops. The company has pursued litigation against small farmers in the past for growing plants from seeds that were not properly purchased.

In one case, a farmer received an eight year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit fraud against Monsanto because he saved seed from one growing season and used it the next without purchasing new seed from the company.

The genetically altered seeds are also suspected in playing a large role in the 2012 epidemic that swept through commercial bee colonies. During this epidemic, nearly 50% of the nation’s bee population was wiped out, with farmers in California being hit the hardest. It is suspected that the neonicotinoids that are bred into the seeds are causing the bees to die after coming in contact with plants that sprouted from the genetically altered seeds.

… As the largest producer of GMO plants, moving into medical marijuana may seem a logical next step for the agriculture giant. US labs already use strains of genetically modified cannabis for testing and research, and the growing demand for legally obtained medical marijuana is sure to spike in the near future.

It looks like Monsanto is already ahead of the game due to their research into RNA interference. The company is investing millions of dollars into this new technology dubbed “RNAi.” With RNAi, it is possible to manipulate everything from the color of the plant to making the plant indigestible to insects.

With medical marijuana, RNAi could be used to create larger, more potent plants effectively cornering the market and exceeding the legal demand for the plant. In Canada, this scenario is one step closer to becoming reality due to new laws that will allow large-scale growers to distribute their plants via mail order … While moving into medical marijuana may be a winning move for Monsanto stockholders, it may also be a strong case of “buyer beware” for the end consumers of the product.

This is not the story being widely portrayed when it comes to the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay – and soon elsewhere as well. Here’s more from the BBC article excerpted above:

This was a huge victory for the cannabis-smoking community in Uruguay. Hundreds of young people gathered outside Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote on a giant screen. Many shared a joint of marijuana with their friends. They partied amid reggae music and some waved marijuana leaves.

There was an atmosphere of celebration inside the Senate too, with dozens of supporters of President Mujica following the nearly 14 hours of the debate from the spectators’ gallery. But not everyone was happy about this law. Senator Pedro Bordaberry of the conservative Red Party told the BBC his country should not become a “guinea pig for Mr Mujica’s experiment”.

He said: “We used to be known for our excellent meat and football, now the world is watching us because of our marijuana.” Dozens of supporters of the bill proposed by the left-wing President Jose Mujica gathered outside the Congress in Montevideo to follow the vote.

Presenting the bill to fellow senators, Roberto Conde said it was an unavoidable response to reality, given that the “war” against drugs had failed. “We have the duty as the state to give a specific answer to an open territory, small and non-producing,” Mr Conde said, adding that Uruguay’s borders were used by cartels to smuggle drugs into neighbouring countries.

It has been reported that marijuana was criminalized in the US because of two men: Harry Anslinger, director of the newly established US Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the early 1930s, and William Randolf Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers.

Anslinger needed to criminalize marijuana to support the expansion of the bureau and Hearst was glad to help because he had big investments in timber and wanted to forestall hemp paper in competition.

Now the cycle has apparently turned. Monsanto, under attack regarding its GMO seeds, may need a new market to re-establish credibility and even popularity – as marijuana will surely prove a more welcome crop than soy in the public mind.

Monsanto’s efforts as regards marijuana in Uruguay may be helped by the overwhelming government involvement in the cultivation, sales and marketing of marijuana.

With its talent at bending smaller governments to its will, Monsanto may find a significant opportunity in Uruguay to establish an even more aggressive business beachhead. There is no doubt that the Uruguayan government will dominate marijuana production, at least in the short term. Here, the AP explains some of the lesser-reported aspects of the new legalization:

President Jose Mujica’s goal is to drive drug traffickers out of the dope business and reduce consumption by creating a safe, legal and transparent environment in which the state closely monitors every aspect of marijuana use, from seed to smoke. That means designing and maintaining an industry that is small, contained and profitable.

The fine print must strike a delicate balance on issues including what strength to allow for marijuana, what price to charge, who can farm it, how to crack down on illegal growers, how to persuade users to buy from the state instead of a dealer, and how to monitor use without being seen as Big Brother. If the rules are too lenient, or too strict, the whole project could fail.

Conclusion

Are there other agendas at work in the Uruguayan legalization?