Uruguay is becoming one of the first countries to legalize nationwide sales of over the counter recreational cannabis to Uruguayans and long term residents. Starting in May 2017 people will be able to sign up to the national registry in order to purchase cannabis directly from pharmacies starting this July.

What exactly does recent legalization mean for Uruguayans?

The retail price for cannabis will be set $1.30 per gram, with $0.90 going to the company that produced the cannabis, and the remainder is split between the pharmacy and the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute (CRCI) that will fund prevention programs. So far only two private companies have been granted licenses to cultivate in the country, a total of twenty companies have applied for licenses to date. There is a strict purchase limit of forty grams per month is granted to individuals in the program, citizens can join registered cannabis clubs, which have a minimum of 15 members and a maximum of 45 persons totaled. Cannabis clubs can grow a total of 99 plants at specific registered locations, but can only provide each registered member with a maximum of 480 grams per year.

  • Cannabis to be sold at $1.30 per gram
  • $0.90 of the $1.30 will go to the company who produced the cannabis
  • $0.40 will be divided between the pharmacy and CRCI
  • Citizens can join cannabis clubs in the country to distribute cannabis legally between members

Challenges and Concerns

The biggest challenge facing the normalization of the cannabis market is coming from Uruguay’s pharmacists. To date, only 50 out of 1,200 community pharmacies have registered to sell cannabis at their locations. The opposition from the country’s pharmacists is a wrench in the government’s legalization efforts since pharmacies would be the main distributors of legal cannabis in the country, this leaves government officials scrambling to address the following concerns and or prevailing attitudes surrounding cannabis.

  • Pharmacists fear that if they begin selling cannabis, their stores will become targets for drug dealers or burglars
  • A negative perception of cannabis is widespread in Uruguay, due to its association with drug cartels and prevailing violence in the country.
  • Cannabis users are still largely seen as anti-social “junkies”, despite marijuana legalization and regulation.
  • Uruguayan cannabis lacks prescription and dosage specifics

Closing Thoughts

There is still a lot we are all learning when it comes to regulating cannabis in our society. Uruguay will face similar obstacles that many other countries have faced when pushing for legalization. The fact is cannabis is still a hushed conversation in many parts of the world, and education is still needed to begin progressing the conversation from outside the shadows. A common theme I’ve noticed when researching cannabis legalization is the lack of specific verbiage on how the policies will enforce and regulate cannabis distribution in general. With help from governments around the world, I feel we will witness legal frameworks arise to begin steering the conversation away from an “illegal substance” to talking about cannabis as a regulated and taxed good.  

Update July 19th, 2017

Select pharmacies in Uruguay are now dispensing marijuana to adults, under regulations that went into effect today.

Sixteen pharmacies are presently licensed to engage in cannabis sales, and some 5,000 adults so far have registered with the state to purchase marijuana products — which are capped at a price of $1.30 per gram.

Sales to foreign tourists are not permitted under the law.

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