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  • An employee sorts harvested cannabis buds.

    An employee sorts harvested cannabis buds. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 October 2018
Opinion

Recreational cannabis has been available for purchase since July 2017.

Uruguay will increase the number of pharmacies selling non-medical, psychoactive cannabis from 14 to 17, Diego Olivera, secretary general of the National Drugs Board (JND), told EFE Thursday. He says he expects that number will continue to grow.

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Uruguay: Legal Weed Yes, Weed Supply No

"It is a number that is going to increase progressively, that is the perspective. Until now it has been consolidating gradually and that consolidation and expansion will continue as long as it is required by the system that regulates sale to the public,” Olivera said.

The three new pharmacies are open for business in the departments of Artigas (north), Maldonado (southeast) and Treinta and Tres (east). Montevideo boasts the highest number of authorized stores to sell marijuana among all departments, with a total of seven.

Uruguay is the first country in the world to legalize the entire process of cannabis production for recreational use, including its cultivation and sale. Any citizen over the age of 18 is eligible to register to buy up to 40 grams (1.41 ounces) a month for personal use. Foreigners aren't covered under the current legislation.  

The official sale of recreational cannabis began in July 2017. Two companies have been authorized and taxed by the state and are responsible for growing, packaging and distributing the crop.

The aim of the law is to "protect the inhabitants of the country from the risks involved in the link with illegal trade and drug trafficking" to reduce "the incidence of drug trafficking and organized crime (Article 4, Law 19172).”

The country of 3.4 million people legalized the production and sale in December 2013. Authorization for pharmacies to sell the product had been expected by the end of 2014. However, it was postponed multiple times.

Then President Jose "Pepe" Mujica said it was "regulation of a market that already exists, regulation, rather than legalization".

Citizens can access the substance through state-authorized pharmacies, membership clubs that work like cooperatives, or growing it themselves. Clubs are required to have no more than 45 members and cannot dispense 480 grams (16.9 ounces)  or more to a single member in a year.

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