Uruguay, the first country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, will begin selling state-regulated cannabis to consumers this summer.
More than three years after Uruguay legalized recreational marijuana, pharmacies will begin selling cannabis to registered consumers. The South American country was the first in the world to legalize the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana in December 2013. Soon it will become the first to legally sell state-regulated marijuana for recreational use.
“Cannabis will be dispensed in pharmacies starting in the month of July,” Uruguay’s head of the National Drug Board and presidential aide Juan Andres Roballo announced at a press conference.
With a population of 3.3 million, Uruguay legalized the production and sale of marijuana after a decade-long grassroots movement that eventually convinced the government of the public health benefits of legalization. The rollout for Uruguay’s marijuana program, however, has been slow. It was initially expected to be operational by the end of 2014, but was postponed several times as the government took extra steps to ensure its infrastructure would effectively undercut the illegal market.
Uruguay’s marijuana law requires that interested consumers sign up to a national registry before they can buy cannabis. Only Uruguayan citizens or permanent residents ages 18 or older can sign up for the registry, which is expected to be operational by May 2. Sales to foreign tourists will not be permitted.
Uruguay’s government has already made deals with 16 pharmacies to sell cannabis but intends to partner with more before the summer launch. The marijuana sold at pharmacies will come from state-supervised crops grown by two licensed producers. The producers, Symbiosis and Iccorp, have announced that they’re producing three different strains of cannabis that will vary in cannabinoid content. One of the strains contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high levels of cannabidiol (CBD).
Marijuana will cost £1 (US $1.30) per gram, a price point set low enough to compete with the illegal market. Each pharmacy will initially be allotted 400 kilograms (882 pounds) of cannabis, but that amount could increase provided there’s greater demand. Consumers will be able to purchase up to 40 grams (1.4 ounces) per month. Pharmacies will initially only be able to sell cannabis in 5 gram contains, although the government intends to introduce 10 gram containers at a later date.
The state-grown marijuana will “guarantee the quality and purity of the product” that Uruguayan citizens consume, Roballo said. “This is not to promote it, but to compete with the informal market,” he added.
Uruguay’s law allows users to legally grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Cooperative clubs that cultivate up to 99 plants annually for up to 45 members is also permitted. So far Uruguay has 6,235 registered personal cannabis cultivators and 38 registered cannabis clubs.
Elsewhere in the world, Canada has announced it will legalize recreational marijuana for adults nationwide July 2018. In the U.S. marijuana remains a Schedule I substance, though eight states and Washington D.C. have passed laws allowing for recreational use.