Speed Reads

marijuana vs. tobacco

In Uruguay, marijuana is good, tobacco is bad


In Uruguay, it will soon be easier to grow your own marijuana plant than go to the store and buy a pack of cigarettes.

On May 6, the country's senate passed a law prohibiting the display of tobacco products, Vice reports, on the theory that if people don't see the items, they won't want them. On the same day, President José Mújica started formally regulating the consumption of marijuana, allowing — among other things — every resident to cultivate up to six marijuana plants each year, as well as buy marijuana in pharmacies. The goal, per Mújica, is to abolish the black market for pot.

Tobacco has long been a target of Uruguay's government, and in 2010, Philip Morris sued, claiming free-trade violations (the World Bank Tribunal agreed to hear arguments). One of the regulations the company didn't like was having to put health warnings covering 80 percent of each cigarette package; the World Bank Tribunal should deliver its verdict in 2015.

As for Uruguayans, most are taking a wait-and-see approach. "There is enormous uncertainty surrounding how this will all come about," a young woman who asked to be called Diana told Vice. "The only thing that is really certain is that people are smoking joints at 10 a.m. with incredible tranquility! All of Montevideo smells like pot. My neighbor already has eight plants."