Long the drug war crusader, the U.S. was the driving force behind the 1961 treaty that formed the basis of international narcotics control. For decades the U.S. has required other nations to cooperate in the drug war or risk losing foreign aid, even as some Latin American countries ravaged by drug war violence criticized America for failing to curb its appetite for cocaine, marijuana and other substances. Since 1996, nearly half the states have allowed medical use of marijuana despite federal laws banning it, and some states are considering following the lead of Washington state and Colorado in legalizing recreational use.
In December, Uruguay became the first nation to approve marijuana legalization and regulation. President Jose Mujica said his 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. By April, Uruguay is expected to have written the fine print on its regulations. Once registered and licensed, any Uruguayan adult will be allowed to choose one of three options: grow plants at home, or join a pot-growing club, or buy marijuana cigarettes from pharmacies.