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.