UK & World News

  • 11 December 2013, 8:55

Uruguay Is First To Legalise Marijuana Trade

Uruguay has become the first country to legalise the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana - a radical tactic in the fight against drug trafficking.

The government-sponsored bill was approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate.

Backers of the law, some smoking joints, gathered near Congress holding green balloons, Jamaican flags in homage to Bob Marley and a sign saying: "Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows."

"We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking," said Uruguay's first lady, Senator Luc?Topolansky.

Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40g (1.4oz) each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents, over the age of 18 and registered on a database that will monitor their monthly purchases.

When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480g (approx 17oz), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.

Registered drug users should be able to start buying marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April.

The bill gives authorities 120 days to set up a drug control board that will regulate cultivation standards, fix the price and monitor consumption.

Marijuana use has been legal in Uruguay, but until now the cultivation and sale of the drug were not.

Some countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and Israel have legal programmes for growing medical cannabis, but do not allow its cultivation for recreational use.

Last year, the US states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives that legalise and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.

The move has faced fierce opposition from conservatives and, according to a recent opinion poll, 58% of Uruguayans oppose legalising cannabis.

"Competing with drug traffickers by offering marijuana at a lower price will just increase the market for a drug that has negative effects on public health," said Senator Alfredo Solari of the conservative Colorado Party.

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