Uruguay will become the first country to legalize the nationwide sale of over-the-counter recreational cannabis, President Juan Andres Roballo announced this week

The South American country became a global pioneer in 2013 when it legalized cannabis, but until now it hadn't put in place a retail market for consumers. In July, pharmacies will be able to sell marijuana to customers who have signed up to a national registry, which will be in place in early May. 

The retail price for cannabis will be set at $1.30 per gram. Customers will be allowed to purchase a maximum of 40 grams per month.

Uruguay has a population of 3.4 million people, and an estimated 150,000 regular marijuana users.

Legalization advocates and the government believe legalizing marijuana will kill the black market, now that consumers are able to legally acquire a high-quality reliable product. This is the latest in a series of steps on the path to full legalization. Uruguayans were already allowed grow up to six plants at home and join cooperatives that grew and distributed marijuana.

Roballo said the marijuana that will be sold in pharmacies - grown by private companies on state-supervised fields - will be "as potent" as the product sold by illegal dealers. It will also be safer, he said.

"Buyers will have complete certainty about the quality of the product they are consuming, and so the risks will diminish considerably," the president said.

So far, the government says 16 pharmacies have signed agreements to be suppliers, and it hopes 30 will be in place by July.

Pharmacy

It's the kind of news that may excite travellers looking for cannabis-friendly vacation destinations. Alas, the national registration program is only open to Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents. So you'll need to have local friends who can buy for you. It's legal for visitors to consumer marijuana there, but not buy it yet.

h/t BBC, Medical Xpress