Uruguayan authorities have revealed how marijuana will be produced and sold legally in the country following the approval of the bill last December. Licensed pharmacies will sell the drug for approximately one US dollar a gram with consumers allowed 40g a month.
The bill which comes into force next Tuesday, specifies that each household may grow up to six cannabis plants, and an annual production of 480 grams. Same restrictions that apply for tobacco and alcohol will be implemented for marijuana. Drivers caught smoke-driving will be subject to the same penalties as those under the influence of alcohol. The same applies to those caught smoking while on the job.
Pharmacies are not forced to sell cannabis and those interested must register. Each individual wanting to purchase the weed in those outlets must previously register (thus leaving non residents out) but at the moment of actually buying does not have to identify himself since this will be done through an electronic system. Purchases are in envelopes with a maximum of 10 grams.
The head of Uruguay's Drugs Board, Diego Canepa said the government expected to launch the licensing process for companies interested in growing the drug within the next 15 days. However this will be limited to a very few licenses (two to six) and each of them a hectare and a half, registered and controlled by government although cultivated by private 'farmers'.
Towards the end of November, early December, the sale of marijuana will already be available in the country through pharmacies, Mr Canepa said. The government estimates the current marijuana demand in Uruguay at between 18 and 22 tons, which would equate to about 10 hectares of cannabis plantations.
November is a crucial month since (October) presidential elections will be over by then and the very controversial issue should somehow lose its impact on national debate.
The bill is highly controversial in Uruguay with government arguing the bill will help tackle drug cartels, but critics say it will expose more people to drugs. A recent public opinion poll showed a majority of Uruguayans were against legalizing cannabis, but a significant percentage also admitted that the bill should be given a chance to see if it effectively works.
A recent UN report criticized the legalization of drugs, saying it posed a health danger.