October 22, 2014 / 1:30 PM / in 5 years

Exclusive: Uruguay presidential candidate would repeal marijuana law

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Uruguay’s leading opposition candidate said on Wednesday he would try to repeal much of the country’s ground-breaking marijuana law, which permits the commercial production and sale of the drug, if he wins Sunday’s presidential election.

Uruguayan National Party presidential candidate Luis Lacalle Pou gestures during a meeting with businessmen in Montevideo October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

The South American country became the world’s first to allow the cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana, but almost two in three Uruguayans oppose the pioneering experiment that aims to wrest control of the trade from drug gangs.

“I will keep the law’s articles that allow users to grow their own cannabis at home and authorize smoking clubs and repeal the rest, in particular the state’s commercialization of the drug,” Luis Lacalle Pou told Reuters.

This was the first time the 41-year-old candidate for the centrist National Party has commented on the actions he would take on the marijuana law.

“I will send a bill to parliament to repeal it,” Lacalle Pou said. “We will need a majority in parliament, and I will look for support.”

The presidential candidate for the right-wing Colorado Party has publicly opposed the law.

Polls show Lacalle Pou trailing the candidate for the left-wing Frente Amplio (“Broad Front”) ruling coalition, Tabare Vazquez, who has endorsed the law.

But with both men projected to fall short of the absolute majority needed for a first-round victory, they will probably go to a late November runoff, where polls show them running neck and neck.

Uruguay passed the marijuana law in December, but leftist incumbent President Jose Mujica, has struggled to roll out the reform, which other Latin American states have followed closely.

Mujica, a 79-year-old ex-guerrilla, is constitutionally barred from running for a second consecutive term.

Lacalle Pou also said he would not grant asylum to six Guantanamo Bay detainees whom Mujica has offered to receive.

Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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