In Nueva Helvecia, a city 75 miles west of the capital Montevideo and just across the Rio de la Plata estuary in Argentina, the first harvest is ready to be sent abroad.
Employees of the United States-based company Fotmer, the only company currently licensed to export the herb out of Uruguay, are cutting and drying the plant to sell in Europe, Canada, and Australia.
This year, Fotmer aims to produce six tons of medicinal marijuana, but the ultimate goal is to reach 400 tons a year. It has installed 18 greenhouses across Uruguay covering over 29,700 square meters of land and invested US$15 million in the venture.
Each packet of weed weighs roughly 6.6 pounds and will be sold for between US$9,000 and US$21,000 on the international market, where prices range from US$3 to US$7 per gram, AFP reported. The first packages are expected to be shipped to Germany.
In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. However it wasn’t until July 19, 2017 that sales began — more than three-and-a-half years after the marijuana law was passed. The country now aims to be the first in Latin America to export it for medicinal purposes.
In doing so, the country would join the ranks of medicinal marijuana exporters in a trade dominated by the United Kingdom, which has cornered more than two thirds of the international market, according to United Nations data from 2016.
Medical marijuana is legal in about 30 countries worldwide. The global market for medical marijuana could reach US$55.8 billion by 2025, according to estimates from a 2017 study by US-based Grand View Research.