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News > Latin America

Uruguay: Legal Weed Yes, Weed Supply No

  • A marijuana cultivator inspects a flowering plant in Montevido, Uruguay.

    A marijuana cultivator inspects a flowering plant in Montevido, Uruguay. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2018

Of Uruguay's estimated 1,200 pharmacies, just 14 are registered to sell marijuana.

Uruguay is failing to meet the demand for legal marijuana. "The demand is greater than our productive capacity," said Diego Olivera, the head of Uruguay's National Drugs Council. "We have to address that challenge."

Uruguay’s Capital Sells Out of Marijuana After 1 Day

Laura Andrade felt the effect, not from smoking pot, but as she stormed out of a pharmacy while cursing. Lacking supply, she was unable to purchase any weed.

“I work. I can't come here every day,” the wine sommelier complained, according to CTV News. With pharmacies in her neighborhood skim on marijuana, Andrade had taken a bus to try her luck elsewhere. “Today I'll have to buy from an illegal dealer. I have no choice. This system is crap. It's useless!”

The same can't be said of some U.S. states where marijuana sales are legal. Oregon and California are experiencing an oversupply, so much so that retailers are cutting prices.

Just finding legal marijuana in Uruguay can send buyers on a mission. Of the South American country's estimated 1,200 pharmacies, just 14 registered to sell the herb. Many declined to stock it out of fear of being robbed or of the low-profit margins.

Uruguay became the world's first nation state to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana in 2017. The law allows for licensed individuals to grow it.

However, Olivera contended that "There was no experience with farming on a large scale and it took a while to finally nail the technology, the workforce and the drying process."

Eduardo Blasina, an agronomy engineer who held a minority share in companies that supply pharmacies, referred to marijuana as a “complex crop.” He explained that investors backing supply companies “didn't come from a culture of cannabis. You'd tell them: You need to buy 50 fans, something that's very necessary in some instances, and they'd look at you as if you were an alien."

Pharmacies in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo ran out of cannabis stock just one day after it was fully legalized in the country last year.

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