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Regulating Cannabis Markets. The construction of an innovative drug policy in Uruguay

Musto, Clara (2018) Regulating Cannabis Markets. The construction of an innovative drug policy in Uruguay. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, Utrecht University.


Since a global War on Drugs was waged around forty years ago, many things changed in the Americas. Overall, by 2013, the manufacture, distribution and sale of illegal drugs widespread throughout these continents. Along with this rising market, the rising severity of convictions and expanded incarceration of the War on Drugs efforts led to increasingly overloaded penal systems. In this unequal region of the world, illegal drug markets expanded hand in hand with violence.

Because of being the most widely cultivated, trafficked and used illicit drug, a new generation of cannabis policies seems to be emerging from this critical state of affairs, either pushed by popular referendums or as an attempt to lower the burden on the criminal justice system. In some cases, cannabis use offences were pulled out of the criminal sphere into the administrative one, in order to create a more suitable legal framework for policy interventions. In The Netherlands, cannabis was de facto legalized through dispensaries euphemistically called "coffeeshops", relying on a discretionary enforcement of the law. Recent United States referendum-driven changes to legalize cannabis selling have forced to a conspicuous inconsistency between nationally endorsed prohibitions and locally arranged regulations. Within this increasingly diverse policy landscape, Uruguay surprised the world in December 2013, becoming the first nation in extensively regulating cannabis. Behind the approval of this law, an odd and conflictive combination of national civil society representatives, legislative and executive power entrepreneurs and transnational networks conflated, to make cannabis regulation happen.

Based on a ten years following of this political process, in this thesis, the nuts and bolts of Uruguayan reform are exposed. I show how political actors framed the problem of illegal cannabis in different ways and how this had significant connotations for the adoption of alternative policy designs. Causal process tracing is used to relate these dissimilar approaches to politics moral foundations and macro level factors, such as the rapid secularization process that Uruguay was going through or the resilience of increasing crime rates in economically prosperous societies. Further on, I show how this politically led change helps to understand important peculiarities of the implementation process. Accordingly, the selection of this case study attempts to contribute to the ongoing debate around how to improve drug policy under the assumption that in order to suggest alternative policies or alternative ways of making policy, it is essential to try to understand how policy is made in the first place.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Chatwin, Caroline
Thesis advisor: Zaitch, Damian
Thesis advisor: Siegel, Dina
Uncontrolled keywords: Cannabis policy change marihuana Uruguay
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2018 08:10 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 04:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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