Crime Rates Have Plunged in Uruguay Since Marijuana Was Legalized

Drug-related crime has plummeted in Uruguay since the country became the very first in the world to legalize the distribution of marijuana.

Uruguay’s legal marijuana market has caused drug-related crime to plummet, according to Latin American news service Telesur. Since adult use marijuana became legally available to purchase in July 2017, crime rates have plunged 20 percent.

Country experts believe that legalizing marijuana removed Uruguay’s participation in South America’s war on drugs, creating a safer environment.

“South America’s war on drugs has been absurd, with catastrophic results no matter what indicators you consider, including consumption,” Eduardo Blasina, director of the Cannabis Museum in Montevideo, explained to The Guardian last year.

“If Uruguay’s experience turns out positive, it will be easier for other countries such as Colombia or Mexico, mired in huge problems with powerful narcos, to find a better solution than the disastrous one implemented so far.”

A similar trend in reduced crime rates following marijuana legalization was also discovered earlier this year in the United States. In states along the Mexican border that have legalized medical marijuana, violent crime has dropped by an average of 12.5 percent since those laws were implemented. Last year, a study published in Preventive Medicine found the presence of marijuana dispensaries to be associated with less crime in surrounding areas.

While the Telesur report doesn’t offer any explanations for crime rate plummeting in Uruguay once marijuana became legally available to buy, previous findings have linked the crime rate-marijuana legalization relationship to related to the subsequent impact on illegal drug trafficking organizations. With residents of Uruguay now having easy access to marijuana, the activity of the illegal market and the crime that often comes with it are diminished.

Uruguay’s Marijuana Law

Uruguay’s marijuana law allows permanent residents over the age of 18 to purchase marijuana from a local dispensary and consume their cannabis in public. Adult Uruguay residents are also permitted to cultivate up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

Personally consuming and cultivating marijuana in Uruguay has been legal since 2013 when the South American country became the first in the world to end marijuana prohibition. Last summer the country started selling state-regulated marijuana to consumers in an effort to further curtail the illegal market.

To buy marijuana from dispensaries, adults must first sign up for a national registry. They can then can select from three different strains of cannabis, each varying in cannabinoid content. At least one of the available strains contains lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD). Selling marijuana to foreign tourists, no matter their age, is not legal under the law.

Uruguay residents can also participate in Cannabis Clubs, sized between 15 to 45 people, which grow and distribute marijuana to members.

marijuana in uruguay

Learn More about Marijuana Laws

In the U.S., marijuana is illegal under federal law, despite that nearly six in 10 Americans believe “legalizing marijuana makes societies better.” In opposition to federal policy, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana and nine of those states have also legalized recreational marijuana.

Learn more about why marijuana became illegal, or keep up with the efforts by lawmakers and advocates to legalize marijuana worldwide by regularly visiting our news page.