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Uruguay's government-run marijuana market begins rollout as president signs implementing rules

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    A shopper looks at a T-shirt decorated with a marijuana leaf and the word " Mujicannabis," a combination of the president's last name "Mujica" and cannabis, at a head shop in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Uruguay's President Jose Mujica is set to sign a law creating the country's legal marijuana market,making Uruguay the first country in the world to create a nationwide market regulating the cultivation, sale and use of legal marijuana. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)The Associated Press

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    A sign that reads in Spanish "We don't sell pot, yet" stands on display at a head shop in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Uruguay's President Jose Mujica is set to sign a law creating the country's legal marijuana market, making Uruguay the first country in the world to create a nationwide market regulating the cultivation, sale and use of legal marijuana. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)The Associated Press

  • Uruguay Marijuana-3.jpg

    Uruguay's President Jose Mujica finishes lunch at El Subte pizzeria where he stopped to eat with friends in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Mujica is set to sign a law creating the country's legal marijuana market, making Uruguay the first country in the world to create a nationwide market regulating the cultivation, sale and use of legal marijuana. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)The Associated Press

President Jose Mujica and his ministers have signed off on the long-awaited rules for Uruguay's legal pot marketplace, starting a rollout that should put government-approved marijuana cigarettes for sale in pharmacies by year's end.

By putting his government at the center of a legal marijuana industry, Mujica hopes to keep otherwise law-abiding citizens away from organized crime and treat addiction as a public health challenge rather than a law enforcement threat.

Opinion polls have said most Uruguayans are against the pot plan, but Mujica told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that his government has the right to experiment.

Otherwise, he says, societies are "condemned to paralysis" and to strategies like the "war on drugs" that are proven failures.