Uruguay First Country to Legalize Marijuana Industry

Senate passes the bill 16-13

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Matilde Campodonico / AP

Activists gather in front of Uruguayan Congress as the Senate in support of the legalization of marijuana outside the Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 10, 2013

Updated at 8:30 p.m ET.

Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the marijuana trade on Tuesday in a 16-13 vote. Supporters of the law gathered near Congress holding green balloons and Jamaican flags in homage to Bob Marley.

The Senate voted on a law that establishes a state-regulated industry and allows citizens to grow, buy and smoke marijuana, Reuters reports. The bill, which is supported by President Jose Mujica, passed a lower chamber in July. Mujica has trumpeted the legislation — closely watched by other Latin American countries — as an alternative strategy to tackle drug trafficking from the U.S.-backed “war on drugs.”

While other countries have decriminalized marijuana possession, and the Netherlands allows its sale in coffee shops, Uruguay is the first to allow the entire production and distribution chain. In the United States, Colorado and Washington state voted last year to allow a regulated recreational marijuana industry.

The law — which will be implemented in 120 days — allows consumers over 18 to buy up to 1.4 ounces every month from state-regulated pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home. It also legalizes smoking clubs of up to 45 members that can grow their own marijuana.

Not everyone is excited by the new law: according to a recent opinion poll by Equipos Consultores, 58 percent of Uruguayans oppose legalizing pot. But opinion is changing quickly — 68 percent opposed legalization back in June.

MORE: High Times in Montevideo: Uruguay Entering Brave New World of Pot Legalization

This post was updated to reflect the Uruguayan Senate passing the bill.