Uruguay began Tuesday the registration of legal marijuana consumers in its final step to implement full legalization of cannabis and make the drug available in pharmacies.
After completing the registration process as a post office in Montevideo, marijuana users called the registry "a big step in our evolution as citizens," saying Uruguay is "innovating, we'll see if this gives results."
The South American country fully legalized production, use and sale of recreational cannabis in 2013, including allowing users to grow up to six pot plants for personal use. The government also gave the green light for the unprecedented sale of three different varieties of marijuana at pharmacies across the country. The registration process is the last step before legal weed hits the shelves — likely in July — for purchase by citizens and permanent residents.
Under the trailblazing laws, registered users will be able to purchase recreational marijuana after presenting a piece of ID and proof of residence in Uruguay. The user will be given two vouchers with a customer number to call in case of any problem while consuming the product.
The price for marijuana at local pharmacies will be US$1.30 per gram — remarkably cheaper than in the United States, where the cost of a gram of marijuana in Oregon dropped to about US$7 after it became the first U.S. state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. In Uruguay, each user will be able to purchase up to 10 grams per week and can't exceed the monthly maximum purchase of 40 grams, or 1.4 ounces.
Under Uruguay's progressive drug laws, there are three legal ways for users to access marijuana: personal cultivation at home, cooperative cultivation in clubs and through private sales controlled by the state through pharmacies. All processes are regulated through the new user registry.
"We do not expect a massive user income, it will be progressive, as the results are seen," Health Minister Jorge Basso told reporters.
The government expects that in 60 days marijuana produced by two private companies will be available for commercialization, which is also part of a plan by authorities to combat illicit trafficking.
The Uruguayan government also launched Tuesday an awareness campaign on the health impact of drug usage. The registry is only available to Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents.