Uruguay has become the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana.
The historic moment came Tuesday when a government-sponsored bill was approved by a 16-13 vote in the Senate, reports Reuters. Through the bill, the cultivation, consumption and distribution of marijuana is regulated. One of the larger objectives of the bill is to get the cannabis trade out of the hands of criminals.
The law -- which was passed after 11 hours of debate -- allows for consumers to purchase a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) every month. But those buying the marijuana must be Uruguayan residents older than 18 and it must be bought from licensed pharmacies, reports The Wall Street Journal. A government database register purchasers and track their monthly purchases.
The law, which goes into effect in 120 days, also lets Uruguayans grow a total of six marijuana plants in their own homes yearly and creates smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants each year. The price will be set by a government-run institute that is also being tasked with monitoring the program, reports The Guardian.
Though supporters of the legalization of marijuana are celebrating the law, there is backlash in Uruguay as well. Nancy Alonso, for one, manages a center for addiction treatment. Speaking to the Guardian, she said she is concerned about the consequences of legalizing marijuana.
"Marijuana is highly addictive. It's 15 times more carcinogenic than tobacco. It produces psychological disorders like depression, anxiety and – for big consumers – schizophrenia," said Alonso. "As a health care agent, I think the social harm will be huge."
Ahead of the vote, the U.N. International Narcotic Control Board expressed concern as well, saying it was “very concerned” with the prospect of Uruguay legalizing marijuana, reports Fusion.
As we reported earlier, Uruguayan President José Mujica told the United Nations in late September that the program is aimed at controlling the marijuana market. “What we want is to take all the market from drug traffickers,” he said. The Uruguayan state, he added, is committed to offering a “safe environment to buy, a quality product to buy at the same price as you would find in the black market.” Under the terms of the bill, marijuana plantations will be subsidized and supervised by the government.