Uruguay – A Pioneer in Cannabis? Leave a comment

Uruguay has become well-known in recent years for its role as a global cannabis pioneer. This reputation stems from the country’s ground-breaking decision to become the first in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use

The legislation establishing a legal market in the South American country was introduced in 2014, though the discussion began much earlier.
Since then, only one other country, Canada, has followed suit in legalising the drug on a federal level. However, the idea is gaining traction in different countries worldwide, including New Zealand and Luxembourg.

Alicia Castilla and her husband Daniel Vidart.
Alicia Castilla and her husband Daniel Vidart.

Consumption of Cannabis was never formally prohibited in Uruguay before its legalisation. Cultivation and supply of the plant, on the other hand, were forbidden, allowing the underground cannabis market to develop. However, in 2011, a single arrest appeared to pique public interest in legislative reform across the country.
In July 2011, 14 armed police officers arrived at the house of 66-year-old Author Alicia Castilla and arrested her for cannabis production. Castilla argued that her plants were just for her personal use and not for sale. Castilla, sentenced to two to ten years in prison, made headlines across Uruguay as locals protested her incarceration.
Castilla quickly earned the moniker “Reefer Grandmother,” and legislators began bringing draught cannabis legislation for her to review in prison.

The cultivation of Cannabis was eventually legalised in 2014. Uruguay became the world’s first country to allow cannabis sales across its whole territory in July 2017.
Despite the country’s progressive cannabis policy, Uruguay’s cannabis legislation has been criticised. Some supporters of legalisation, like Alicia Castilla, are dissatisfied with the current system. When Cannabis became legal in 2015, the number of pharmacies applying for permission to sell cannabis products were deficient.

Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez and Alejandro Antalich.
Uruguay’s President Tabaré Vázquez and Alejandro Antalich.

According to Alejandro Antalich, Vice President of Uruguay’s Association of Pharmacists, “just 30 of the country’s 1,000 pharmacies signed up to sell cannabis” in 2017. The government restricts and caps the number of cannabis strains available. THC concentrations of more than 9% are not permitted in any legally accessible cannabis.

In Uruguay, the medicinal Cannabis market is also limited, with only one domestic company, Medicplast, having registered medical goods, sources their raw materials from Switzerland.
Despite the shortcomings in the supply chain, the number of registered pharmacies has begun to grow, alongside the number of Cannabis clubs, customers, and home growers. As of the end of June 2019, there were 36,487 registered recreational Cannabis customers in the country.

The government has also opened a new application process to increase the number of recreational, commercial cultivators. This month, lawmakers also revealed a proposal that would allow visitors to Uruguay to purchase cannabis products for the first time legally. Under current regulations, tourists are still prohibited from purchasing Cannabis in the country. However, as the first country in the world to legalise Cannabis, many foreign consumers have flocked there – left only with the option of illegally sourcing products.

The sponsors of the proposal insist that the change is not to promote the consumption of Cannabis but to deter more consumers from the enduring illicit market.

Uruguay has become well-known in recent years for its role as a global cannabis pioneer. This reputation stems from the country’s ground-breaking decision to become the first in the world to legalise recreational cannabis use

The legislation establishing a legal market in the South American country was introduced in 2014, though the discussion began much earlier.
Since then, only one other country, Canada, has followed suit in legalising the drug on a federal level. However, the idea is gaining traction in different countries worldwide, including New Zealand and Luxembourg.

Alicia Castilla and her husband Daniel Vidart.
Alicia Castilla and her husband Daniel Vidart.

Consumption of Cannabis was never formally prohibited in Uruguay before its legalisation. Cultivation and supply of the plant, on the other hand, were forbidden, allowing the underground cannabis market to develop. However, in 2011, a single arrest appeared to pique public interest in legislative reform across the country.
In July 2011, 14 armed police officers arrived at the house of 66-year-old Author Alicia Castilla and arrested her for cannabis production. Castilla argued that her plants were just for her personal use and not for sale. Castilla, sentenced to two to ten years in prison, made headlines across Uruguay as locals protested her incarceration.
Castilla quickly earned the moniker “Reefer Grandmother,” and legislators began bringing draught cannabis legislation for her to review in prison.

The cultivation of Cannabis was eventually legalised in 2014. Uruguay became the world’s first country to allow cannabis sales across its whole territory in July 2017.
Despite the country’s progressive cannabis policy, Uruguay’s cannabis legislation has been criticised. Some supporters of legalisation, like Alicia Castilla, are dissatisfied with the current system. When Cannabis became legal in 2015, the number of pharmacies applying for permission to sell cannabis products were deficient.

Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez and Alejandro Antalich.
Uruguay’s President Tabaré Vázquez and Alejandro Antalich.

According to Alejandro Antalich, Vice President of Uruguay’s Association of Pharmacists, “just 30 of the country’s 1,000 pharmacies signed up to sell cannabis” in 2017. The government restricts and caps the number of cannabis strains available. THC concentrations of more than 9% are not permitted in any legally accessible cannabis.

In Uruguay, the medicinal Cannabis market is also limited, with only one domestic company, Medicplast, having registered medical goods, sources their raw materials from Switzerland.
Despite the shortcomings in the supply chain, the number of registered pharmacies has begun to grow, alongside the number of Cannabis clubs, customers, and home growers. As of the end of June 2019, there were 36,487 registered recreational Cannabis customers in the country.

The government has also opened a new application process to increase the number of recreational, commercial cultivators. This month, lawmakers also revealed a proposal that would allow visitors to Uruguay to purchase cannabis products for the first time legally. Under current regulations, tourists are still prohibited from purchasing Cannabis in the country. However, as the first country in the world to legalise Cannabis, many foreign consumers have flocked there – left only with the option of illegally sourcing products.

The sponsors of the proposal insist that the change is not to promote the consumption of Cannabis but to deter more consumers from the enduring illicit market.

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