Uruguay is increasing the number of pharmacies that sell recreational cannabis from 14 to 17, and Diego Olivera, secretary general of the National Drugs Board, expects that number to continue to grow.
“It is a number that is going to increase progressively, that is the perspective,” said Olivera. “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.”
Uruguay, with a population of 3.4 million, is the first country in the world to legalise 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.
At the time of legalisation, a gram of pot from a pharmacy cost $1.30, which was said to be half the street value.
The official sale of recreational cannabis began in July 2017, since when two companies were permitted by the state to grow, package and distribute the crop. The two companies are regulated and taxed by the state.
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).”
Citizens can access the substance through the state-authorised pharmacies, membership clubs that work like cooperatives, or by 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.