Skip to main content

New rules in Uruguay create a legal marijuana market

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
May 6, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Uruguay is the first country to regulate legal production, sale and consumption of marijuana
  • New rules legalizing the marijuana market take effect Tuesday
  • President Jose Mujica backed the law and says it will harm drug traffickers
  • The law doesn't give foreigners the right to smoke or even buy the drug

(CNN) -- Can you imagine legally growing marijuana in your backyard? How about walking down to the corner pharmacy to buy a gram or two of ready-to-smoke pot?

Starting Tuesday, this scenario will no longer be a pot smoker's fantasy in one South American country.

Uruguay has published regulations for a new, legal marijuana market, a measure approved by lawmakers there in December.

The law and the new regulations make Uruguay the first country in the world to have a system regulating legal production, sale and consumption of the drug.

In announcing the marijuana regulations, presidential aide Diego Canepa reminded everyone that the state will control the marijuana market from beginning to end, starting with setting prices.

"The value of the gram of marijuana sold at pharmacies in the regulated market will be set by the President's office through the control agency," Canepa said.

Uruguay's marijuana law 'experiment'
Uruguay decriminalizes pot
Exclusive: Obama talks about pot

That's right. The Uruguayan government has created an agency whose mission is to regulate the pot market, known as the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis.

The proposed price starts at 20 Uruguayan pesos per gram (about 87 cents in U.S. dollars), Canepa said.

People can grow as many as six plants at home and produce a maximum of 480 grams per year, according to the published rules. Cannabis clubs of anywhere between 15 and 45 members will be legal.

Another rule allows people to buy as much as 40 grams of marijuana per month at state-licensed pharmacies.

Julio Rey, founder of a cannabis club and a spokesman for the National Association for the Regulation of Marijuana, told CNN in December, shortly after passage, that his organization was very pleased with the legislation.

"We will take care of the tools of this law to demonstrate that we, as the public, can objectively look at this project and comply with its proposed legality," Rey said.

This isn't about creating a free-for-all system, Canepa told reporters. It's about creating rules that will refocus government efforts on prevention and taking the market from the hands of ruthless drug traffickers that only care about money.

Opinion: Finally, a nation legalizes pot

"What we now know is that we had a sustained increase in consumption during prohibition. This new reality, as we understand it, is going to change that, and it will be possible to implement better public policy to take care of those who abuse drugs," Canepa said.

For anyone considering traveling to Uruguay to smoke marijuana legally, President Jose Mujica, a big supporter of the law, says go elsewhere.

The law doesn't give foreigners the right to smoke or even buy the drug. In fact, consumers, sellers and distributors all have to be licensed by the government.

In an interview with CNN en Español in 2012, Mujica explained his reasons for promoting the legislation.

"If we legalize it, we think that we will spoil the market (for drug traffickers) because we are going to sell it for cheaper than it is sold on the black market. And we are going to have people identified," he said.

With the help of state-of-the-art technology, authorities will track every gram or marijuana sold, according to Canepa. Bags will be bar-coded. The genetic information of plants that are legally produced will be kept on file. This will allow police to determine whether illegal marijuana is being commercialized.

Governments and drug policy experts will certainly be watching closely how the Uruguayan model develops. The marijuana legislation places the South American country at the vanguard of liberal drug policies, surpassing even the Netherlands, where recreational drugs are illegal but a policy of tolerance is in place.

READ: TSA finds 81 pounds of pot in checked luggage

READ: Medical marijuana and 'the entourage effect'

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0500 GMT (1300 HKT)
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, leaders of the most populous nations face similar challenges. Can they learn from each other?
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
The U.S. is not returning combat troops to Iraq, President Barack Obama insists.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0301 GMT (1101 HKT)
This is "Flames of War," a slick and ominous new video from the ISIS media center.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Psychedelic drugs are being researched as a potential treatment for conditions ranging from anxiety to tobacco and alcohol addiction.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0142 GMT (0942 HKT)
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1004 GMT (1804 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT