Legislators in the tiny Latin American nation of Uruguay have approved a measure to legalize and regulate marijuana, emerging as the first country in the world to permit both the sale and production of the addictive drug.
The country’s parliament passed the bill by a vote of 16 to 13 on Tuesday evening after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica championed the measure as a bid to combat the illicit drug industry that has decimated parts of the nation.
Additionally, Senator Alberto Couriel, a member of the ruling Broad Front left-wing coalition, described the bill as “a historic day” for Uruguay.
Under the new law, the sale and production of the drug will be regulated by a specially-set-up government body that will administer a database of adult citizens registered to consume marijuana.
Registered Uruguayans over the age of 18 will reportedly be allowed to purchase up to 40 grams of marijuana from pharmacies every month and cultivate a maximum of six plants on their property.
Moreover, the cost of marijuana will be set at one dollar per gram, intended to undercut the current price of USD1.40 on the illegal market.
Prior to the passage of the new legislation, the consumption of marijuana in Uruguay was not penalized, but its sale and production was considered a criminal offense.
The country’s National Drug Board estimates that there are nearly 120,000 marijuana users in Uruguay from a population of 3.3 million. Consumer groups, however, estimate the number of users to be at around 200,000.
The bill has triggered debate in Latin America over the issue of the illegal drugs trade and the problems it creates.
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