MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Marijuana clubs are now registering with the government of Uruguay as the first nation in the world to approve a state-run system to supervise distribution of the drug takes its plan to the next major phase.
Under the new law, passed last year, licensed clubs of up to 45 members will be allowed to grow a maximum of 99 plants each year. They can't be withing 164 yards of a lower school, college or drug rehab center.
Over the summer growing up to six pot plants at home became legal. The government hopes that pot will be sold at the nation's pharmacies by next year, though it's well behind schedule rolling out the national system.
Experts estimate that some 150,000 Uruguayans regularly smoke pot, but the issue is still a sensitive one in the nation just as voters are preparing to turn out for a presidential runoff election the end of November.
The pot change was spearheaded by outgoing President Jose Mujica, who argued that legalizing the drug is the only way to weaken the criminal drug trade.
But the elections could snag the law, depending on the results. The upcoming vote pits ruling party candidate and one-time president Tabare Vasquez, who backs the marijuana laws, against center-right challenger Luis Lacalle, who wants to roll them back — along with up to two-thirds of the population.