Uruguay, the first country in the world to legalize marijuana, officially began its new rules on May 6.
After four months of crafting, Uruguayan authorities have come up with a comprehensive plan to regulate the marijuana trade.
Released last week, the plan outlines a system for the production and sale of recreational marijuana. The system is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014. Here’s a breakdown of the new rules:
Who Can Buy It?
Marijuana will be available to anyone over 18. It will be sold in state-licensed pharmacies and buyers will have to enter their name in a national registry.
Marijuana will only be available to Uruguayan residents, meaning tourists won’t be welcome. Those who wish to purchase it will be limited to 40 grams a month (or 10 grams a week).
What Will It Cost?
The price of legal marijuana will be set by the government, which has put out estimates of 20-22 pesos per gram ($0.87-$1/gram). The aim is to keep the price low enough to compete with the black market.
Who Can Grow It?
Marijuana will be supplied by 6 private companies with licenses from the government. These companies will have to follow strict rules, and will not be allowed to choose how much to grow or the location of the operation.
To start, 5 different cannabis varieties will be available. Every new variety of cannabis will have to be registered with the government, allowing the circulation of product to be tracked. The strength of the cannabis produced will also be capped at 15% THC. The government estimates 18-22 tons of cannabis per year will be needed to meet demand.
Optionally, individuals can choose to grow for themselves or join a cannabis collective. Individuals can grow up to six plants. Collectives can have between 15 and 45 members and grow up to 99 plants. Both individual growers and collectives must be registered with the government and can produce no more than 480 grams a year per person.
What Isn’t Legal?
Under Uruguay’s new law, marijuana users cannot be intoxicated during work or while driving.
The law also prohibits marijuana use in taxis, buses, trains, planes and any other mode of transportation. Advertising or promotion is not allowed either.
How It Happened
Late last year, Uruguay’s parliament passed a bill to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade. The bill was backed by Uruguayuan President José Mujica, who signed it into law in December, making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.
Despite significant backlash, President Mujica has firmly defended the move by citing the failures of prohibition and the negative effects of drug trafficking and addiction.
Mujica also says that the new law will allow Uruguay, a small country with a population of just 3.3 million, to serve as an experiment for larger countries to observe and consider.
Although the final rules for legal recreational marijuana are now set, the country still has a lot of work left to do in setting it up. The first government audit of the law will happen in August.
A framework for medical marijuana has also proven more complicated than recreational marijuana. While scientists in Uruguay have welcomed the opportunity to freely study the therapeutic effects of marijuana, regulations for medical marijuana are still being drafted. A final set of rules is expected to come later this summer.