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Recreational Marijuana Use Becomes Legal in Uruguay This Week: Marijuana Legalization Mimics Colorado and Washington Stipulations

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First Posted: May 04, 2014 09:42 AM EDT
Marijuana
(Photo : Getty Images/David McNew)

Last December, the Uruguayan government passed a groundbreaking law that made it the first country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana use, and on Friday, after four months of hammering out the details, Uruguay President Jose Mujica announced the stipulations of the law that will go into effect May 6.

According to Al-Jazeera America, individuals of Uruguay's marijuana smoking community have three options when it comes to legally accessing the drug. One caveat is that smokers have to choose one of the three selections and will not have access to marijuana by the other two means.

The first option is citizens can go to registered pharmacies and buy a maximum of 40 grams of marijuana per month with a limit of 10 grams per week.

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The second option allows individuals and those with a green thumb to cultivate their own marijuana plants with a 480-gram annual cap production.

The third option allows members of cannabis clubs to grow a limit of 99 plants per group and is bound by the second option's cap of 480 grams per member.

Mujica, who called the new law an "experiment," passed the law as an effort to combat the prohibitionist war on drugs that have plagued many Latin American countries with violence and crime. 

After Colorado and Washington state passed their recreational marijuana use laws during the 2012 election, Uruguay's drug czar, Julio Calzada, looked to those precedents for inspiration in his country's law. Many of the caveats and conditions of Uruguay's laws are mirrored in Colorado's marijuana policy, including a home cultivation provision and the way the country will track the inventory of government-grown plants. Uruguayans will also be subject to DUI checkpoints and laws very similar to Washington state's DUI provision.

The Uruguay law, however, stands apart with its drug abuse provision. Under the law, all marijuana smokers have to register with the government at local post offices so the country can track users who could potentially become abusers. If a user ends up becoming an abuser, the government will enroll the person into treatment facilities to reduce their consumption, according to Al-Jazeera.

Also under the marijuana laws, only Uruguayans can register for marijuana access, and the government will sell high-quality marijuana at $1 per gram, which is much cheaper than purchasing off the Latin America's black market.

Annually, the country spends an estimated $80 million combating the drug market, so the government is also hoping to seize and capitalize on the $40 million industry that runs between Paraguay, the second largest marijuana producer in Latin America, and Uruguay.

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