Uruguayans register as marijuana home-growers

People in Uruguay who want to grow their own marijuana at home were able to register to do so Wednesday as the government launched the latest phase in its first-of-its-kind legalisation programme.

Under a law that went into effect in May, citizens of Uruguay, or legal residents who were at least 18, could grow marijuana for personal use if they registered. There was a limit of six female plants, with an annual harvest of up to 480 grams per registration.

Few people appeared to be rushing to register with the government on the first day.

Juan Vaz, a well-known cannabis activist, said he registered and found the process easy, but could understand why some might be reluctant.  

"There are some people who might feel persecuted," Vaz said.

"For many years, they grew plants in secret and it's hard to break from that way of thinking."  

Uruguay was the first country in the world to attempt to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana on a nationwide scale.

The law, passed by Parliament in December 2013, also allowed for the formation of growers and users-clubs and the sale by pharmacies of 40 grams of pot a month to registered users.  

So far, no club had yet completed all the requirements to begin operations, but at least four had started the process. President Jose Mujica has said the sale through pharmacies would be postponed until next year.

Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for October and the major opposition candidates have signalled that they intended to repeal all or part of the law if they gained the presidency or a majority in the parliament.

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The leading opposition candidate, Luis Lacalle Pou, has said he would repeal the sale at pharmacies, but allow the option to grow marijuana for personal use.

 - AP

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