Uruguay warns residents about drug addiction before legalizing pot
Youngsters wait outside the Parliament building (background) while lawmakers debate the bill legalizing marijuana, in Montevideo, on July 31, 2013 [AFP]

The Uruguayan government Friday launched a campaign warning that "all drug use has risks," days before the South American nation becomes the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.

Uruguayan lawmakers will vote Tuesday to green-light a marijuana bill, part of a social experiment designed to combat drug-trafficking.

The anti-drug campaign begins with a series of televised adverts before shifting emphasis to public radion in the coming months.

"We believe that to reach our objective, which is to fight addiction, the regulated market for marijuana gives us assistance and rationale that we are using in various ways," said Diego Canepa, assistant secretary to the Uruguayan president and president of the National Drug Board (JND) responsible for the campaign.

For Canepa, "a regulated market that is visible has greater oversight than prohibition."

Uruguay's lower chamber of Congress already passed the marijuana bill in August, and passage in the upper house is assured because the ruling leftist Broad Front coalition controls both.

The plan was unveiled a year and a half ago by President Jose Mujica along with other measures designed to halt crime and violence associated with the drug trade.

The law will give the government control and regulatory power over imports, growing, harvesting, distribution and sales of pot and its derivatives.

After signing up, people 18 and older will be able to grow up to six marijuana plants, obtain the drug in marijuana smoking clubs and buy up to 40 grams a month in pharmacies.

As the law stands now, consuming drugs is not illegal but selling them is in Uruguay.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]