Uruguay to make marijuana legal in trailblazing gamble

Uruguay to make marijuana legal in trailblazing gamble
File photo of a man smoking a joint during a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Mexico City.

MONTEVIDEO - Uruguay is to give a green light Tuesday to making marijuana legal, in a social experiment that countries plagued by drug-related crime worldwide will watch.

The legal change in this largely rural and well-educated South American nation of just 3.3 million, looms large with a vote in the Senate.

The lower house of Congress passed the bill in August, so passage in the upper house is assured because the ruling leftist Broad Front coalition controls both.

"It is going to be a history-making day. This puts Uruguay squarely in the forefront of changing policy-making and strategies," said Senator Luis Gallo of the Broad Front.

The plan was unveiled a year and a half ago by President Jose Mujica along with other measures aimed at ending crime and violence associated with the drug trade.

"This is an experiment", Mujica, 78 and a doctor by training, told AFP in August.

"We can make a real contribution to humanity. Be a testing ground with a series of measures to confront the problem and provide tools to fight drug addiction," he said.

The law will give the government control and regulatory power over imports, growing, harvesting, distribution and sales of pot and its derivatives.

After signing up, people 18 and older will be able to grow up to six marijuana plants, get the drug in marijuana smoking clubs and buy up to 40 grams a month in pharmacies.

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