One year after the cultivation and sale of marijuana became legal in Uruguay, the small South American country of 3.3 million people has 1,200 registered cannabis growers, the head of the National Drugs Board, Julio Calzada, said Monday.

"It is encouraging to have 1,200 growers after three or four months since the law came into effect," Calzada told reporters, adding the implementation of the law is progressing "on a clear path, carefully and under control."

Calzada estimated that "roughly 500" cannabis clubs have registered with the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis. Each club is allowed up to 45 members and the cultivation of up to 99 marijuana plants.

Most users probably will not be growing their own plants and will not become club members, Calzada said. Instead they will just get their pot through authorized pharmacies, a mechanism still in the works.

President-elect Tabare Vazquez, who will be sworn in next March, said his government will abide by the law authorizing the cultivation and sale of marijuana through pharmacies, but he left open the possibility of introducing changes in the regulations.

"We will abide by this law and we will have a very strict monitoring to see how it works," said Vazquez, a medical doctor. "If the need arises to amend the law, we will send a bill to parliament to be debated."

Calzada said the legal framework for production must be finalized before marijuana becomes available at pharmacies.

"Once the companies winning this bidding process start their operations, we will focus on the distribution system for pharmacies," he said. EFE