Who Can Buy Marijuana In Uruguay And Other Questions About Selling Cannabis

From this Wednesday, 16 pharmacies throughout the South American country sell psychoactive cannabis for non-medical use. These are the keys to the last step in this Uruguayan project, a pioneer in the world.

Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the cultivation, production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

From this Wednesday, 16 pharmacies throughout the South American country sell cannabis, culminating a process of 3 and a half years.

At the end of 2013, during the government of then President José “Pepe” Mujica, Parliament approved Law 19,172, which established the sale of psychoactive cannabis for non-medical use.

Previously, other points of the law had been implemented, such as approval of self-cultivation and cannabis clubs.

These are the keys to the last step in this Uruguayan project, a pioneer in the world.

  1. Who Can Buy?

To avoid tourism linked to marijuana, only Uruguayan citizens (legal or natural) who reside in the country can buy cannabis in pharmacies.

In addition, it is necessary to be over 18 years of age and to register in an official register in the National Post offices.

According to the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute (IRCCA) of Uruguay, where 3.4 million people live, up to July 16, 4,959 people registered.

For a reference, there are 6,948 registered self-cultivators and 63 cannabis clubs, reports IRCCA.

People registered to buy marijuana in pharmacies can not integrate any of the other two categories.

Prior control of the fingerprint, the so-called “purchasers” can buy up to 40 grams of cannabis per month for personal use in the 16 pharmacies that have been adhered to so far.

  1. How Much Does It Cost?
  • What you buy in pharmacies are “cannabis flowers – buds – packaged in their natural state, dried, not grinded or pressed,” IRCCA reports.
  • Each package has 5 grams and has a price of US $ 6.5 set by the government.
  • At the moment, two varieties are sold, called “Alfa I” and “Beta I”, which are hybrids of Indica and Sativa predominance respectively.
  • According to IRCCA, both contain low to medium levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the natural active ingredient that produces the psychoactive effects.
  1. Who Produces It?

The marijuana sold in pharmacies is cultivated, packaged and distributed by two companies, Symbiosis and International Cannabis Corp, which won a public tender.

These have state authorization and, as such, pay taxes.

However, the Uruguayan newspaper El Observador reported that the State does not profit from this process other than for the operation of the IRCCA.

  1. Why Did You Adopt This Policy?

The idea behind the approval and implementation of Law 19,172 is, according to the government, to reduce drug trafficking and prevent Uruguayan people from inciting to use hard drugs.

“The problem is not drugs, it is men and women, and the social bonds that are generated, with a substance, with their peers and with society, that is the fundamental thing,” said the former Secretary General of the National Drug Board from Uruguay Milton Romani, to the Efe Agency.

Since Uruguay began to apply these public policies, other countries mainly in Latin America have begun to analyze and change their “prohibitionist” regulations regarding marijuana.

Marijuana: Study Alternative To Pharmacies

There are already two points of sale that announced that they would stop marketing cannabis.

Faced with the blockade of bank accounts to pharmacies that sell cannabis, the Executive Branch is analyzing some alternatives among which is going to market it in cash at the herbalists. While looking for an exit, a second pharmacy announced that it would stop selling the drug.

It is understood that the herbalists are smaller businesses that do not depend on the banks and when operating in cash they would not have problems. If this option is chosen, the instrumented system will be reversed for sale in pharmacies, at least temporarily. For this, it is thought to modify the regulatory decree of the law passed in Parliament in 2013.

The idea of ​​marketing cash only was handled yesterday by former President JoseMujica in an informal chat with journalists at the Legislative Palace. As he said, the formula “is novel because it gives an immediate response.”

The fund’s exit so that the legalization of the sale of marijuana can return to normal operations goes through the mission to be carried out at the beginning of September by the president of the Central Bank, Mario Bergara, to the United States. It is estimated that he will be accompanied by the secretary of the Presidency Miguel Angel Toma or the assistant secretary Juan Andres Roballo to Washington and New York to hold meetings with Federal Reserve authorities.

Mujica planned to travel to the United States but said he would not be part of the official delegation. He said that he intends to meet with linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky “to take some wines.”

The government already made contacts on this issue with the US and Canadian embassies on the progress of the system. For Mujica, the first days of operation were auspicious. “If there is something in the place that is regulated to the extreme of the impossible is this, the problem is that you have to prove it to the world,” he said. From your point of view, you can not delay an exit because “people do not have back and demoralize,” he said about pharmacies that market the drug.

Mujica stressed that the purpose of the law is not to promote the consumption of marijuana, but “to put the accent on the fight against drug trafficking (…) I was interested in trying to clarify to the people that this starts as a public security problem. I still worry about drug trafficking; I will never recommend it to people who smoke marijuana, “he said.

For the former president, “in the long run” the problems linked to the closure of bank accounts will have “a solution because they always have.” This same version was given yesterday to the sizeable front party by the president of the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute (Ircca) Augusto Vitale, and the Secretary of the Drug Board Diego Olivera.

Sources that participated in the meeting assured El País that it was reaffirmed that the law “is more valid than ever” and “will not be modified.” There it was handled that “from the right one seeks to destroy the law.”

The deputies agreed that a “defense of Uruguayan sovereignty” is necessary and reaffirmed the need to seek solutions at an international level. Some deputies went so far as to suggest that marijuana could be sold in euros, to prevent the money from being sent to correspondent banks in the United States.

“I am concerned about the sovereignty of the country and that the interference is such that it ends up cutting off the possibility of selling a legal product,” Deputy Oscar Groba told El País (Espacio 609). In his opinion, the marijuana law “is well done” and has “fantastic results.” “People know what they consume, consume a product of good quality, and a product was taken from the gondola to the mouths of drug sales,” said the legislator.

The opposition questioned the alternatives handled by the Executive Power to deal with the closure of bank accounts to pharmacies. “The flexibility that the government proposes to resort to cash to buy cannabis is what many people ask for financial inclusion,” said nationalist senator Javier Garcia on Twitter. So he concluded that if solutions were found so that banks do not hinder “, there must also be for all Uruguayans who do not want mandatory banking.”

It Complicates The Sale Of Marijuana In Uruguayan Pharmacies

It is because the banks refuse to operate with the businesses involved in the commercial chain. The government seeks to mediate and solve the problem.

The sale of marijuana in pharmacies, a vital piece of the rule that legalized the cannabis market in Uruguay, ran into a complication: banks refuse to work with companies that participate in the production and marketing of the drug.

One of the 16 pharmacies that sold cannabis in Montevideo, capital of the country, gave up on doing so after Banco Santander warned that it could not continue operating with a trade. Other pharmacies have already been informed that their accounts will be closed if they do not stop selling marijuana.

“The decisions of linking clients are made locally, and within the current policy, in this line, we have decided not to participate in this area as we do not participate in others,” said sources at Banco Santander according to a communication sent to The Associated Press by the company that manages its communication in Uruguay.

Also, the state bank Banco República, the largest in the country, told pharmacies that they must close the accounts of those selling marijuana.

Diego Olivera, secretary general of the National Drug Board, explained that they are meeting with each of the pharmacies to find out how many have received warnings from banks. “We are reconstructing the situation of each one with individual interviews, and it is expected that, as the days go by, all of them will receive some notification.”

The official tried to lower the drama to the issue. “Undoubtedly, in these processes of paradigm change different moments of difficulty are found, we are working on alternatives.”

Olivera did not want to advance what the solutions could be. “We hope to minimize the negative effect, this is a legal activity, and we reaffirm our commitment to the full application of the law.”

Senator José Mujica, who was president when the marijuana market was legalized in 2013, demanded that the authorities solved the problem and threatened to “lock” Parliament if that does not happen.

Although there is a law that enabled and regularized the market for this drug in Uruguay, the marijuana trade is still illegal in most of the world, so banks in countries where it is prohibited cannot accept money from such activity. As explained to the AP by authority of the government’s economic team, whose name can not be disclosed because they are not authorized to make statements, Uruguayan banks could jeopardize their links and correspondent positions with international banks if they do not know that regulation.

California Stores Are Also Suffering From The Same Problem

Some California stores that sell medical marijuana legally have a problem similar to that of Uruguayan pharmacies because they can not access the banking system because that business is still illegal at the federal level in the United States.

The lawyer Pablo Durán, legal advisor of the Pharmacy Center of Uruguay, told Carve radio that the problem with banks is suffered by pharmacies that work “within the framework of the law” and held that the sale of marijuana is an “absolutely regulated, lawful, regulated and controlled.”

In Uruguay it is difficult for a company to have no access to the financial system since the salaries of the employees must be deposited in a bank account due to a legal obligation, being forbidden the payment in cash or checks.

The offer of cannabis in drug stores started on July 19. Before all else, there were 4,959 enrolled customers, yet the number rose to 12,460, as per the Cannabis Regulation, and Control Institute give the recent figures.

The system began to operate with only 16 pharmacies registered to sell marijuana throughout the country and only four in Montevideo, a city with almost a million and a half inhabitants. The pharmacy that was deleted from the system was one of four in the capital.

After registering at a post office each user can access 40 grams of the substance each month. To record, you must be over 18 and be an Uruguayan citizen or have legal residence in the country. The price of the gram of marijuana was set at the equivalent of $ 1.30.

Buyers can go to the pharmacies without needing to mention their name or present documents since it is enough for them to verify that they are registered in the registry of the state institute.

The Legalization Of Marijuana In Uruguay Has Turned Out To Be A Success.

In July of this year, the small nation of Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the sale of marijuana in all its territory.

Marijuana is sold in pharmacies, but the low price and obstacles put by the banks mean that few have decided to sell it.

A long queue of people waits every evening at the doors of a small neighborhood pharmacy in Montevideo. So little that they can only enter one by one. The process is slow, but the clientele, mainly young, does not seem to mind. They wait their turn standing or sitting, talking in groups of two or three, in the breeze of a warm spring afternoon.

At the entrance, a pharmacist asks each of them to put their fingerprint on a scanner. The electronic device is connected to a government database that will authorize, or not, your weekly dose of 10 grams of legal marijuana. The product is of high quality, controlled by the State and guarantees an excellent high.

“In the city, 25 grams of maryjane would cost you 3,000 pesos, that is, around 100 dollars [about 85 euros] for something that likely conveys a high measure of pesticides, seeds, and stems,” says Luciano, a youthful purchaser who It’s your turn now.  “But here the same amount costs you only 30 dollars [about 25 euros], with a maximum quality guarantee, and in five-pack thermosealed packages.”

In July of this year, the small nation of Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the sale of marijuana throughout its territory.

“The most important thing has been the paradigm shift,” says Gastón Rodríguez Lepera, an investor in Symbiosis, one of the two privately owned businesses that produce marijuana for the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis, of the Uruguayan government. “Uruguay decided at the end without much international support, they said it would not work, so look, it’s worked.”

With a populace of just 3.4 million,  in a small territory between its two neighboring giants, Brazil and Argentina (with people of 208 and 43 million respectively), Uruguay has long been at the forefront of progressive politics not only in South America but globally.

A divorce law that allows women to separate from their husbands by merely asking for permission in a courthouse was approved as early as 1913. Abortion was legalized in 2012, with Uruguay being the only Latin American country to do so along with Cuba.

Uruguay’s progressive temperament is due in part to a clear separation between Church and State in a region where the Catholic Church remains dominant. The Christmas calendar does not appear as such on the official holiday calendar. The majority of Uruguayans refer to that day with the denomination chosen by the government: family day. Easter week is called tourism week.

The decision to venture into the legal marijuana market has not come unhindered. Mainly by the majority of pharmacists, who opposed resistance to acting as marijuana providers for recreational use (medical marijuana remains illegal in Uruguay).

Only 12 of the 1,100 pharmacies in the country have registered to supply marijuana to the 17,391 registered consumers in the government system, which explains the long queue in the small pharmacy of Montevideo.

The low price of the product and the low-profit margins explain the reluctance of pharmacies. “But the main problem is that the banks have threatened to close the accounts of the pharmacies that sell marijuana in Montevideo,” says one of the pharmacists who sell marijuana in Montevideo in any case, does not have any desire to uncover his name for fear of bank intervention.

Although the sale of marijuana has been legalized in several states of the United States, it is still illegal at the federal level, causing most banks do not want to keep accounts related to the sale of marijuana anywhere in the world. Even now that sales have been fully legalized in Uruguay, the fear of getting into trouble with US federal authorities is real.

“The problem with the banks was an unexpected complication,” says Eduardo Blasina, president of the cannabis museum in Montevideo, located in an old house in the artistic Palermo district of the Uruguayan capital. “But these potholes will end up smoothing out.”

Pythagoras Pharmacy Sells Marijuana In A Neighborhood Plagued By Hard Drugs

The marijuana envelopes sold out in a matter of hours at the legal points of sale in Montevideo.

The sanctioning of cannabis has put the unobtrusive Pitagoras Pharmacy, of the Malvín Norte neighborhood, in a conspicuous place on the guide of Montevideo. The reason is straightforward: it is one of only a handful couple of four drug stores that have consented to offer legal weed developed ashore controlled by the Uruguayan State. Far from the chains that dominate the market, located in strategic areas, with huge windows displaying international brands, the Pythagoras pharmacy has small dimensions but is modern and well-stocked. These days his owner, Esteban Rivera, has more press than a rock star.

As in the rest of the Montevidean pharmacies, marijuana sachets flew yesterday, on the first day of their sale. Every foundation can have up to two kilos of the substance available for later, the likeness 400 envelopes. At twelve there was nothing left in the Pythagoras drug store.

Malvín Norte is a humble neighborhood, a neighbor of Malvín to dry, wealthy area and houses. The difference between one and another is Avenida Italia, which cuts the city in two depending on the proximity to the Rambla, the 23-kilometer promenade that runs through the town. The closer you get to the Rio de la Plata and its magnificent spectacle, the more expensive the area. The Pitágoras pharmacy is many streets away from that river (so full) that in Uruguay it is called the sea, but it is still the only pharmacy that sells marijuana in the high east zone of Montevideo, which includes the best neighborhoods in the capital.

A vendor from the Pitágoras Pharmacy explains that they have asked for more marijuana to stock up, but for now they have no news. Today there is a general transport strike due to a wage dispute with the government, and although it should not affect the supply, everything may be behind, says the employee. If the agencies in charge of the administration of the legal drug are as effective as the rest of the Uruguayan public services, they have for a while. The computer system was hung several times yesterday and fingerprint reader malfunctions: the device serves so that buyers, who must be registered in a register, can identify and access the four grams of envelopes available for sale.

And the fact is that you have to be in the market because outside is the competition, the so-called “mouths” of illegal drug sales, where the Paraguayan press is sold, which carries marijuana and a little of everything. In Malvín Norte they know what drugs are and their ravages, Uruguay is the safest country in Latin America, but in this area of ​​low houses, punctuated by some vast (and often ramshackle) building there have been murders and cruel adjustments of accounts because of drug trafficking.

The Paraguayan pressing, however wrong it may be, is a joke when compared to the base paste, a waste of the cocaine produced in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia that was introduced in early 2000 in Uruguay, causing havoc. It is the drug of the poor, sold in small packages, as if it were candy, at 30, 60 or 100 pesos a dose (from one to three dollars). The problem is that the base paste sticks strong and after a few minutes leaves the imperative need to get more.