Uruguay became the first country on Tuesday to legalize the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana.
The Senate approved the bill by 16 to 13.
The new law aims to take business and control of the drug away from drug traffickers but critics say it will lead to greater consumption and open the door to harder substances.
Senator Roberto Conde addressed the Senate, saying: “The problems with consumption don’t come from the regulation the law establishes. The law establishes this regulation for the very purpose of facing the negative consequences marijuana consumption has on our society.”
A crowd gathered outside Congress to support the new legislation.
From April, users will be able to buy marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies. They must be over 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their purchases.
Pro-legislation campaigner, Martin Collazo, spoke to euronews: “Today is a historic day, not only for Uruguay, but the whole world. Uruguay is the first country to regulate the marijuana market. There is a big stake now for social organisations to continue working for the efficiency of this programme. But today, above all, is a day of celebration, as you can see from the people outside the legislative palace.”
Countries like the Netherlands have already decriminalised cannabis. But Uruguay is the first to legalise the whole chain from growing the plant to buying and selling its leaves. Other nations are watching closely to see if the novel approach works.