Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Regulation chokes cannabis market in Uruguay

Legalizing weed: how Uruguay tripped up - - Meagan Campbell:

March 17, 2017 - "One Thursday morning in December 2013, marijuana became legal in Uruguay. Before midday, in the country’s two largest cities, 10 people walked into post offices, provided thumbprints, photo ID and addresses and received cannabis registration cards, which would limit their purchases — at designated pharmacies — to the equivalent of two fat joints per day. As the first country to legalize and regulate the drug, Uruguay appeared, at least for a moment, to have cannabis under control.

"Four years later, much of the policy has gone to puff. Pharmacies were supposed to start selling the drug to the newly registered citizens, but because the product is cost-controlled, pharmacists have no incentive to deal it. As a result, Uruguayans still have nowhere to legally buy marijuana. Even if pharmacies were stocked, most pot smokers are reluctant to join the registry, which they believe invades privacy, sets arbitrary monthly limits and would bind them to buying weed during business hours.

"'On the positive side, Uruguay has legalized marijuana, and the country hasn’t collapsed,' says José Miguel Cruz of the Latin American Marijuana Research Initiative. Yet, he says, 'the problem in Uruguay is that the government is regulating absolutely everything.' Citizens are permitted to grow six plants in their homes or more if they move their plants to registered 'cannabis clubs,' but Cruz says, 'They don’t want to grow it. They don’t want to join a club. They just want to get it.'

"And get it, they do. Police are seizing almost triple the amount of black-market marijuana as before the policy change — last year, the equivalent of about 13 million joints, based on numbers reported by the newspaper El Pais. Marijuana tourism also appears to be mushrooming; Brazilian and Argentinean police are seizing more of the drug, and Uruguayans, who can now legally grow it, have admitted selling weed to their international neighbours."

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