The Uruguay Senate has voted to legalize marijuana, The Wall Street Journal reports. The law, approved Tuesday, puts the government of the South American nation in control of the distribution and sale of marijuana.
Legislators in the lower house of Uruguay voted to approve the measure this summer. Uruguay President José Mujica has said he plans to sign the bill into law.
The legislation is designed to fight drug traffickers, the article notes. Proponents of the measure hope that if the state controls the marijuana market, outside gangs will lose profits, and the government can use the revenue raised from marijuana taxes to pursue criminals.
Under the measure, private companies will grow marijuana, and a state agency will oversee its distribution and sale. Residents age 18 and older will be permitted to grow up to 480 grams annually, or to purchase up to 40 grams of marijuana—equivalent to about 60 cigarettes—monthly from licensed pharmacies.
Other leaders in the region will be closely watching Uruguay’s experience with legalizing marijuana. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is advocating marijuana legalization, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has indicated he wants to discuss his country’s drug-war tactics. Neither leader has proposed a marijuana legalization law.
Politicians from Uruguay and Mexico visited Colorado in October, to see how the state is preparing to implement its new law on recreational marijuana use. “We know the Colorado and Washington [state] initiatives and they’ve had a big impact on our thinking,” Sebastián Sabini, the Uruguayan legislator who sponsored the law in the country’s lower house, told the newspaper.