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Uruguay Marijuana Market Still Struggles After Legalization, Two Years Later


It has been over two years since the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay, making it the first country to legalize sales of recreational marijuana on a nationwide level. The recreational cannabis legalization in Uruguay allows residents to use cannabis in three ways: by growing it at home, or buying it from pharmacies or collective “grow clubs”.

Uruguayan citizens and legal residents 18 or older who want to grow at home are to register for licenses and are allowed to cultivate up to six plants per household. Plants are only allowed to produce up to 480 grams a year.

Citizens and residents who would like to purchase cannabis are to register for buyer licenses and are able to purchase up to 10 grams a week, or 40 grams a month, at a cost of about a dollar per gram.

Grow clubs or cannabis clubs are somewhat of a gray area in Uruguay. There are about 20 grow clubs doing business within the country and only a few have finished all the legal paperwork. Most clubs have a sign-up fee or monthly fee and members have a weekly limit of cannabis they are allowed to purchase.

Tourists and visitors are not allowed to buy cannabis as it is only legally available to Uruguayan residents and legal nationals. The government body is supposed to control the legal market but it is underfunded and understaffed, the pharmacy plan has barely advanced beyond the drawing board and police continue to harass growers.

Because cannabis consumption and possession in small quantities was already accepted and tolerated inside the country, the amount of drug related crimes in Uruguay has raised compared to the years before legalization. Cannabis is still by far the most seized drug, with 2015 being the historical record.  According to these stats.

Many local political, historical, social, economic, and cultural factors play a huge role when creating new regulations. In Uruguay, things have always been done the same way: state-centered, slow, and bureaucratic. As new regulations are made and the budget issues solved, we will be able to learn more from Uruguay on how to legalize marijuana more efficiently due to the type of market the country has to offer.

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