Uruguay becomes first country to legalize marijuana

Marcelo Vazquez, a marijuana grower, checks the leaves of his marijuana plants for fungus, on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 9, 2013.
Uruguay has become the first nation to legalise the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana after the country\’s Senate gave final approval to the legislation.
After a long debate on Tuesday, 16 of 29 senators voted in favour of the law championed by President Jose Mujica.
The legislation is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation.
Backers of the law, some smoking joints, gathered near Congress holding green balloons, Jamaican flags in homage to singer-songwriter Bob Marley and a sign saying: "Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows."
Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.
When the law is implemented in mid-April, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams, 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.
Several countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and Israel have legal programs for growing medical cannabis but do not allow cultivation of marijuana for recreational use.
Polls show two-thirds of Uruguayans oppose the plan, which faces fierce opposition from conservatives.
Last year, the US states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives that legalise and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.
Source: Agencies
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