After a historic vote Uruguay is set to legalize marijuana. The Senate approved a measure that would legalize marijuana and create a tightly regulated market by a margin of 16-13.

The bill narrowly cleared the lower chamber of the legislature earlier this year. Since President José Mujica has been the main supporter of this reform, he is expected to sign it into law once it reaches his desk. After it becomes law the government will have four months to write the rules governing the new system.

While marijuana will be legal for adults, it will be highly controlled by the government. Adults will need to register with the government and can only buy up to 40 grams a month. They will be allowed to grow a small amount of marijuana for personal use at home or as part of regulated co-operatives though.

The goal of the legislation is to drive criminals out of Uruguay’s marijuana market yet not become a destination for cannabis aficionados. Montevideo is unlikely to become the Amsterdam of South America, since tourists will be prohibited from buying on the legal marijuana.

Along with Colorado and Washington State, Uruguay will serve as a laboratory for reform.

I explore the future of marijuana policy after it is legalized in my upcoming book After Legalization: Understanding the Future of Marijuana Policy. You can support my book at Kickstarter and be one of the first to get a copy.

Photo by Eduardo Amorim under Creative Commons license