Uruguayan President on Marijuana: 'I Want to Rob That Illegal Business Market'

Miguel Rojo/AFP/Getty Images

Uruguayan President José Mujica envisions his country’s legalization of marijuana as a kind of state-sponsored Robin Hood operation.

“In Uruguay, like in other parts, the market exists,” he told Jorge Ramos in an interview that aired Tuesday on Fusion. “There are people who sell, people who make money, people who traffic with it. I want to rob that illegal business market, and put it in the light of day.”

Uruguay is set to embark on a bold policy experiment on Tuesday, with its legislature ready to approve the state-sanctioned cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

The vote will make Uruguay the first country to legitimize the cannabis trade. Uruguayans will be able to purchase up to 1.4 ounces of marijuana each month from state-run pharmacies, so long as they’re over the age of 18 and registered with the government.

On “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos,” Mujica acknowledged that the majority of Uruguayans -- 61 percent -- aren’t in favor of legalization.

“They have reasons to be scared, right?” Ramos asked.

“How could they not be scared,” Mujica said. “But we are much more scared of the existence of drug trafficking…drug trafficking is much worse than the drug. The drug, you can control.”

Although he’s been a vocal proponent of legalizing pot in Uruguay, Mujica isn’t a marijuana smoker himself.

“Frankly, I don’t even have an idea of what it is,” Mujica said.

“Would you try it?” Ramos asked.

“Sure, I don’t have any prejudices,” Mujica responded.

The Uruguayan president contradicted himself somewhat.

“But I don’t think that marijuana is good,” he said. “I’m convinced that it’s a plague, just like tobacco and alcohol.”

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Alt

More than half of Americans support marijuana legalization. Still, the federal government considers it a dangerous drug. This is a look at the science, the conversations, and the politics of pot.

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