For the first time since legalizing cannabis in December 2013, Uruguay will be conducting legal cannabis sales through registered pharmacies around the country beginning July 2017.
Uruguay became the first country to fully legalize the adult use and possession of cannabis on December 10, 2013, but took great pains to ensure that the infrastructure was carefully set up to undercut the black market and benefit the federal government before implementing sales.
So far 16 pharmacies are registered begin selling legal cannabis, although the government is hoping to have as many as 30 pharmacies registered by July, according to Juan Andres Roballo, head of the National Drug Council.
Adults 18 years of age and older must sign up with the Instituto de Regulacion y Control del Cannabis to be licensed to visit these pharmacies, although the official registration is not expected to be up and running until May 2. Registration will allow any adult Uruguayan citizen to purchase up to 40 grams (1.4 oz) of cannabis per month. Although there are plans for 5-gram and 10-gram packages to be sold in pharmacies, only the 5-gram packages will be available initially.
Foreign tourists will not be allowed to purchase cannabis.
Cannabis will be sold at a fixed price of about $1.30 USD per gram. The price has been set low to compete with the average price of black market cannabis imported from neighboring Paraguay.
Uruguay licensed two companies to cultivate legal cannabis, Symbiosis and Iccorp, who are allowed to produce up to two tons of cannabis per year. The companies have announced the production of three different strains of cannabis that will be available for purchase. The strains will vary in potency, starting with a variety that is low in THC and high in CBD that is recommended for beginners, with each subsequent strain increasing in potency.
Each pharmacy will be allotted 400 kilograms (882 lbs) of cannabis, an amount that could increase depending on demand, and pharmacies are expected to refresh their stock approximately every 15 days. There are 3.4 million citizens in Uruguay, of which an estimated 150,000 regularly consume cannabis.
Since the law was passed in 2013, Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents have also had the option to grow up to six cannabis plants in the privacy of their own residence. Citizens also have the option of joining private cannabis growers’ clubs, which are authorized to grow a maximum of 99 plants annually and may supply up to 45 members per club.
There are currently 6,235 registered personal cannabis cultivators and 38 registered cannabis clubs in Uruguay.