Today the Uruguayan Senate approved a marijuana legalization bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last July. After President José Mujica signs the bill, Uruguay will become the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis. Under the bill, which Mujica championed, the government will grow marijuana and distribute it to pharmacies, where adults will be allowed to buy up to 40 grams (about 1.4 ounces) a month. The bill also allows home cultivation of up to six plants and nonprofit distribution by cannabis clubs similar to Spain's. Uruguay's drug control agency has until mid-April to write regulations for the new system.

While Uruguay is smaller in population and land area than Colorado and Washington, the two U.S. states that have legalized the commercial cultivation and sale of cannabis, it is the first nation to officially allow marijuana distribution for recreational use. Although the Dutch government for decades has tolerated retail sales of marijuana at so-called coffee shops, the drug remains illegal in the Netherlands. "It's about time that we see a country bravely break with the failed prohibitionist model and try an innovative, more compassionate, and smarter approach," says Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance. "For 40 years, marijuana prohibition has been attempted, and it simply hasn't worked. But rather than closing their eyes to the problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking, Uruguay has chosen responsible regulation of an existing reality. Let's hope others soon follow suit."