Uruguay's House of Representative is preparing to vote on a bill to legalise marijuana on Wednesday.

If passed by the House and the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The law is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, which says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume "the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialization and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products".