Late Wednesday night, Uruguay’s lower House voted to approve a bill that will legalize recreational marijuana in the South American country. Lawmakers approved the bill with a vote of 50-46 after hours of debate.
Now, the legislation will head to the Senate. Lawmakers are confident that the majority of the Senate is in favor of marijuana legalization as well. President Jose Mujica is also in favor of marijuana legalization. He has argued that legalization is necessary to allow police to focus on real, violent crime and trafficking of more illicit substances.
Laura Blanco, president of Uruguay’s Cannabis Studies Association stated, “This is a very innovative bill, with the state deciding to regulate the entire chain of production, distribution and access to the substance.”
Under the bill, which could become law as early as this month, people would be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes, limited to six plants per household. They would also be permitted to form cooperatives allowed to cultivate 99 plants. In addition, private companies could grow marijuana under the bill, though their harvests could be bought only by the government, which would market the drug in licensed pharmacies.
To buy marijuana in pharmacies, Uruguayans would be required to enter their names into a federal registry, which is intended to remain confidential, and would be limited to buying 40 grams per month. And in a move to prevent foreign tourists from flocking to Uruguay to smoke marijuana, the legislation would restrict legal purchases to Uruguayans.
The marijuana legalization bill has been under consideration for over a year. It was postponed last year after polls showed that a majority of Uruguayans opposed the bill. Lawmakers are now moving forward despite a lack of change of opinion from most of the country’s citizens.