Uruguay's lawmakers have approved a sweeping bill to legalize the sale and cultivation of marijuana.
Legislators in the lower house of Congress voted on Wednesday 50-46 in favor of the bill as the governing Broad Front coalition outnumbered votes cast by the opposition party. The legislation will now go to the senate, where lawmakers have assured President José Mujica that they have the majority votes needed to approve it. The bill could become law as soon as this month.
Under the outspoken former guerrilla's leadership, Uruguay has leaned left. Mujica supports marijuana legalization because he argues that police resources need to be focused on fighting street crime and drug trafficking. Lawmakers have also enacted a groundbreaking abortion rights law and have sought to legalize same-sex marriage. Mujica is also seeking to make Uruguay a hub for renewable energy enterprises.
"This bill doesn't promote consumption," Sebastián Sabini, the legislator sponsoring the bill, said. "It regulates it."
The use of marijuana is already legal in the South American nation, but its sale and cultivation isn't permitted. The bill would create a government body to regulate agriculture and commerce.
To cut down on foreigners flocking to Uruguay for marijuana, the legislation restricts legal purchases to Uruguayans.
Under the proposal, registered users would be limited to buying 40 grams per month, and they could also grow up to six marijuana plants per household. They would be permitted to form cooperatives, which could cultivate up to 99 plants. Private companies could also harvest marijuana; however; they could only sell to the government, which would market the drug for medicinal purposes in licensed pharmacies.