Uruguay is moving forward with a plan that would combat drug trafficking by creating a government-run marijuana industry that could begin operation as soon as next year, reports the Associated Press. Smoking marijuana has reportedly been legal in the country for some time now, but growing, possessing, buying, and selling it haven't been. "The illegal market is very risky and of poor quality," Julio Calzada, secretary general of Uruguay’s National Committee on Drugs, reportedly told the local paper El Pais. The plan, he says, is to have Uruguay "offer a safe place to buy a quality product."
"A safe place to buy a quality product."
Calzada expects marijuana to sell for $1 per gram, a far lower price than what medical dispensaries in the United States tend to charge, reports the AP. In Washington, medical marijuana reportedly sells for around $8 to $14 per gram on average, and legal marijuana for non-medical buyers could cost even more. Uruguay plans to only sell the marijuana to its citizens, however, and to sell them no more than 40 grams per month. A single gram, Calzada reportedly says, is enough "for one marijuana cigarette or two or three slimmer cigarettes."
The plan has already be approved by the lower house of Uruguay's congress, according to the AP. And Uruguay's president, José Mujica, reportedly expects that the plan will make its way through the senate soon. It's a plan that Mujica has been mulling for over a year now, and — as the low prices might suggest — is really meant as a way to combat illegal drugs rather than to profit off of legalizing and selling one. “It’s a profound change in approach,” The New York Times quotes Sebastián Sabini, a lawmaker who worked on the plan, as saying at the plan's unveiling in June 2012. "We want to separate the market: users from traffickers, marijuana from other drugs like heroin."