The 5th of May saw the release of 66 year old Alicia Castilla, who was held in prison for 94 days after police discovered marijuana plants at her home in Atlántida, Uruguay.
In a similar way to the Netherlands, laws in Uruguay allow possession of cannabis for personal use (although in Uruguay the amount considered reasonable for personal consumption is decided by a judge). Cultivation however is completely forbidden, a paradox that forces users to either (illegally) buy from criminal dealers or break the law by cultivating cannabis for their own use. Alicia Castilla, author of two books on cannabis, chose the latter option.
In January 2011 police raided the house she had bought with the intention of having ‘a peaceful place to spend my old age’, and discovered 29 unsexed cannabis seedlings.
“I think it’s an injustice that a person is in prison for planting what they consume,” Castilla told Spanish newspaper El Pais. The grandmother affectionately nicknamed “Senora Cannabis” by her many supporters expressed emotional relief at this turn in a case that attracted attention from all over the world, especially in her native Argentina.
Following her arrest, Alicia Castilla was imprisoned in Canelones, a squalid and violent prison where inmates include murderers and crack addicts. After 45 days and repeated requests, she was transferred to CNR, a rehabilitation centre. Here she had access to a laptop and began drafting a third book, inspired by her experiences.
Until very recently the Supreme Court in Uruguay was refusing to grant provisional release to Alicia Castilla but an appeal for probation was finally granted by prosecutor Fernando Valerio. Alicia must now await the final ruling, which has already been delayed. She intends to continue campaigning for the legal right to cultivate cannabis even more passionately than before.