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This Country Just Became The First In The World To Legally Sell Marijuana For Recreational Use

Recreational weed can be purchased from the South American country's pharmacies for about $1.30 a gram.

Posted on July 19, 2017, at 10:54 p.m. ET

Uruguay on Wednedsay became the first country in the world to sell recreational cannabis.

Miguel Rojo / AFP / Getty Images

It took more than three years for Uruguay to implement the recreational marijuana trade after it was legalized there — and it is now being sold at pharmacies.

Miguel Rojo / AFP / Getty Images

The small country's marijuana industry is entirely controlled by the government, which runs every aspect from seed to sale.

Cannabis is being sold for about $1.30 a gram, which is so cheap the government believes it will be able to undercut the black market.

Matilde Campodonico / AP

Tourists shouldn't get too excited though, because sales will be restricted to residents. Weed buyers must be 18 or older and register with the government's newly founded Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA).

Matilde Campodonico / AP

Nearly 5,000 Uruguayans have already registered for the system, according to the IRCCA.

When registered users go to purchase cannabis, their fingerprints are scanned, revealing how much they've bought at any of the 16 pharmacies that sell marijuana in the country.

Matilde Campodonico / AP

Registered users are allowed to buy 40 grams of marijuana per month.

The government has allowed two companies to grow cannabis and people are allowed to buy one of two types named Alpha 1, an indica, and Beta 1, a sativa.

Each type of marijuana only has 2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that gets users high.

Uruguay's president at the time when cannabis was legalized, José Mujica, is a social liberal who was once a guerrilla leader.

Pablo Porciuncula / AFP / Getty Images

He also pushed to decriminalize abortion and legalize same-sex marriage.

The government said after the legislation was passed that it didn't want to create a pot tourism industry, and the law bans branding or advertising cannabis. Uruguay was also wary about people taking it into neighboring countries, which is why they created such stringent registration requirements for purchasing cannabis.

Certain states in the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Jamaica have limited marijuana laws, but none as comprehensive as Uruguay's new cannabis trade.

Jason Redmond / Reuters

States such as Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts have all passed laws in support of recreational cannabis, but some are further along in implementation than others.

Canada is currently working to legalize recreational cannabis, which is set to start on July 1, 2018. Colombia legalized medical marijuana. Mexico's Supreme Court ruled it was legal to grow cannabis for personal use. Jamaica decriminalized possession and allows medical marijuana and use for religious reasons.


Canada plans to legalize recreational marijuana starting on July 1, 2018. An earlier version of this post misstated the date.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.