MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Uruguay is considering growing marijuana on plot of land controlled by the military to avoid illegal trafficking of the crop, which it legalized in December, the defense minister said on Wednesday.
Tapping military land to centralize cannabis cultivation is one of several scenarios the small South American country is studying as it prepares to roll out its new legalization law, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez said in an interview.
"The ministry of defense has many parcels of land and it will be seen which offers the best conditions for bailment," Fernandez said. "At any rate we can guard perimeters."
Ten to 20 hectares (25 to 49 acres) of marijuana would likely be enough to meet domestic demand, according to preliminary estimates issued by ruling party lawmakers.
Uruguay, the first country in the world to legalise the full cycle of marijuana trade from seed to smoke, is being watched closely by other countries debating drug liberalisation.
Under the new law, the government will grant licenses for cultivation and Uruguayans will be able to buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month from authorized pharmacies. Each Uruguayan will also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants or the equivalent of 480 grams (about 17 ounces) for personal use.
President Jose Mujica, 78, had proposed the law as a way to wrest the cannabis trade from criminals. It was passed by Congress in December.
The government has emphasized that it does not want marijuana grown within its borders to be sold in other countries.
"The most important thing is to make sure that our laws don't affect neighboring countries," Fernandez said.
The government has said it will announce details on how the law will be implemented in April.
(Reporting by Malena Castaldi, writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Richard Chang)