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Cannabis Coming to Uruguay Pharmacies—At Last

Bill Weinberg

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Uruguay’s government announced last week the granting of licenses to two companies to grow cannabis for commercial distribution.

Juan Andrés Roballo, head of the National Drug Board, said the two companies chosen out of 22 applicants were Symbiosys and Iccorp, both start-ups financed by Uruguayan and foreign capital.

They will each be allowed to produce two metric tons of cannabis yearly—with the plantations to be guarded by government troops. Uruguayans will be able to purchase 10 grams (about a third of an ounce) weekly. Roballo told reporters that cannabis will go on sale in the country’s  pharmacies “in no less than eight months from now.”

The move has been a long time coming.

In May 2014, Uruguay’s cabinet set a six-month deadline for pharmacy sales. But as November came, regulators backed off setting a firm date because of the country’s elections, which returned the leftist Frente Amplio (Broad Front) to power. Conservative challengers who campaigned against the legalization policy were soundly rejected by Uruguay’s voters.

The legalization law, signed by then-President José “Pepe” Mujica in December 2013, allows each household to register to grow up to six plants, and citizens can also unite in cannabis clubs to grow a collective 99 plants and distribute 40 grams each month to up to 45 members. So far, some 3,000 have registered to grow at home, and there are 20 registered “grow clubs,” with names like the 420 Cannabis Club, and 60 more are awaiting approval.

The new program will establish the first legal commercial sales in South America.

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Bill Weinberg is based in New York City.

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