Marijuana aficionados lined up at pharmacies across Uruguay on Wednesday to be among the first in the South American nation to legally buy cannabis as a law regulating its sale took full effect.
Customers showed off blue-and-white envelopes containing the substance, which is now available as part a 2013 measure that made Uruguay the first nation to legalize a marijuana market covering the entire chain from plants to purchase.
Santiago Pinatares, a 35-year-old construction worker, braved freezing temperatures in the capital, Montevideo, as he waited outside one of the 16 pharmacies authorized to sell marijuana.
“To be able to buy it legally is a huge breakthrough,” he said. “Uruguay is at the forefront of the world on this.”
Authorities say nearly 5,000 people have registered as consumers, allowing them to buy up to 40 grams of cannabis per month. About two-thirds of them live in Montevideo.
The price is set at the equivalent of $1.30 per gram, with 90 cents of that going to the two businesses chosen to cultivate marijuana.
The rest of the money is split between the pharmacies and the government, which will use its share to fund prevention programs. The marijuana comes in packages emblazoned with a seal of authenticity and warnings about the drug’s effects.
Uruguay became the first country to regulate a national marijuana marketplace in an effort to fight rising homicide and crime rates associated with drug trafficking.
The law also lets licensed individuals grow marijuana plants and form clubs.
– Associated Press