Report on the Security and Coexistence Objective of Recreational Cannabis Regulation in Uruguay. Baseline.

Baudean, Marcos

Year: 2017

Type of Publication: Research report

Editor: Monitor Cannabis Uruguay

Keywords: regulation, monitoring, evaluation, security, coexistence, Uruguay

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Baseline for the Evaluation and Monitoring of Recreational Cannabis Regulation in Uruguay


Security and Coexistence Objective


Hypothesis and rationale


Law 19172 is one of the measures implemented by the Uruguayan government in response to the security and coexistence problems that the country is experiencing. In 2012, the government presented the “Strategy for Life and Coexistence” (Presidency of the Republic, 2012), which includes a series of measures to comprehensively address the problems of security and coexistence and its most dramatic manifestations, such the sharp increase of murders, violence in its multiple manifestations, and the deterioration of social relations of coexistence.

In reference to security, Law 19172 is intended to “protect the inhabitants of the country from the risks involved in the contact with illegal trade and drug trafficking” by segmenting the cannabis market and the markets of other drugs. As well, this law seeks to “reduce the influence. of drug trafficking and organized crime” through actions that reduce the profitability of the business, by affecting the size of the illegal drug market, snatching part of the market. Therefore, the Law intends to tackle a part of the problems of security and coexistence, mainly those derived from the illegal drug market (Baudean, Robaina, Musto, & Collazo, 2014; Garat, 2015; Müller Sienra & Draper, 2017).

However, the specialized literature affirms that marijuana markets are not violent. Most purchases happen between friends, and this rooting in social networks makes it a non-violent market. This is confirmed by Room, Fischer, Hall, Lenton & Reuter (2010) and Caulkins, Howken, Kilmer & Kleiman (2012). Research on marijuana purchase practices carried out in Uruguay confirms the same pattern that occurs internationally (Baudean, Robaina, & Collazo, 2015).

Therefore, the only way in which regulation could achieve the objective of reducing the violence associated with drug trafficking is in the long term. It could indirectly affect drug-related violence by attacking one of the pillars of the illegal business.

It is necessary to be clear that the expectations placed on the effect that regulation would have on the problems of lethal violence, which began to be observed as of 2012, were excessive. Why? Because we can assume that the theory of change implicit in the Uruguayan regulatory model is that the reduction of violence associated with drug trafficking depends on reducing the activity of drug trafficking. The reduction of activity can be achieved by displacing the illegal business, replacing it with legal activities. The Cannabis Regulation Law aims to promote this replacement and thereby weaken the illegal business due to the loss of the marijuana market. However, in the short term, violence between drug traffickers could intensify due to the strangulation of the business and, in the long term, violence could decrease due to a reduction of traffic activity in general. The speed of change will depend on the implementation of the policy, as well as the convergence or conflict between this policy and other security and drug policies.

At the beginning of the evaluation process, the following general hypotheses were developed. Based on these, indicators were developed to evaluate results.

  1. Hypothesis 1: If the regulation is successful (legal market displaces the illegal market), the illegal marijuana market will decrease in number of consumers and volume.
  2. Hypothesis 2: If the illegal marijuana market decreases, the presence and activity of drug trafficking in Uruguay will be weakened because marijuana is an important part of that business.
  3. Hypothesis 3: If the presence and activity of drug trafficking diminishes, in the long term, the number of systemic homicides linked to narcotics should decrease.
  4. Hypothesis 4: In the short term, changes in the market due to regulation (restructuring of actors due to downsizing of the business and struggle for dominance in territories) could produce an intensification of conflicts between drug gangs. This would lead to an increase in systemic homicides (homicides of and by members of organized drug dealing gangs).
  5. Hypothesis 5: other aspects of security and coexistence will be affected by the effects of regulation on the illegal drug market. Thus, we can expect:
    In the short term, an increase in the perception of insecurity if criminal conflict intensifies;
    In the long term, an improvement in the perception of security resulting from a decrease in the violence associated with drug trafficking.

Based on these hypotheses, four major dimensions of Security and Coexistence were selected to be monitored: the evolution of the illegal market, criminal violence, human security and coexistence; and perception of security (Latorre & Fraiman, 2014; Baudean, Robaina, Musto & Collazo, 2014).