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Marijuana Acceptance Varies Across Hemisphere

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DENVER (AP) – Marijuana’s acceptance is growing in Latin America as much as in the U.S., but the support is top-down in most countries except the United States, editors were told Monday at the 69th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association.

Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance told the editors that elected officials in the U.S. have been slow to embrace marijuana legalization, though polls show most people favor it. By contrast, he said, elected officials in Latin American countries are talking more about pot legalization, while most people oppose the idea.

Uruguay is expected to finalize plans by the end of the year to become the first nation in the world to license and enforce rules for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.

“This debate is going to jump to a new level in Latin America,” Nadelmann predicted.

The editorial director of El Universal, the largest newspaper in Mexico City, had tough questions for Nadelmann about the effect of legalization in Latin America.

“Latin America will just put up the dead, and you’ll continue to party? You’ll continue to enjoy marijuana? This is very serious,” Roberto Rock said.

Nadelmann replied that the U.S. started a failed global drug war but that this country now shouldn’t shy away from trying to change global drug policy.

“This is the only way for a debate to open up throughout the hemisphere,” Nadelmann said.

Nadelmann addressed the editors along with Jack Finlaw, lawyer to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and head of a marijuana task force set up in Colorado earlier this year.

Finlaw likewise predicted marijuana legalization would expand. He cited a statement last month from the U.S. Department of Justice that it would not interfere with state pot laws as long as the states try to keep the drug away from children and criminals, among other priorities.

“It’s going to happen. More states are going to legalize. And we feel privileged to be the test case, the incubator,” Finlaw said.

By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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