The tiny South American nation of Uruguay is making big strides in its effort to legalize recreational marijuana. On July 31, Uruguay’s House passed a legalization bill. The bill is likely to be approved by the Senate and eventually signed into law by President José Mujica.
On Tuesday it was disclosed that, if made legal, the price of pot would be an incredibly low $2.50 per gram – far less expensive than even the best rates of California’s nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.
The $2.50 per gram price is written in to the legalization bill currently working its way through Uruguay's legislature. In addition to making pot legal, the bill would establish government regulations for large-scale production and retail pot sales, giving the government unprecedented control over the quality and consumption of Uruguayan marijuana.
The bill’s low price for pot and improved quality control are intended to compete with, and ultimately undermine, Uruguay's marijuana black market. Approximately 120,000 Uruguayans (out of a population of 3.3 million) currently obtain cannabis through the black market. According to InSight Crime, illegal pot prices vary by region but run as high as $5 per gram (roughly $140 an ounce). However, $2.50 per gram is comparable to underground prices according to Uruguayan drug czar Julio Calzada.
If the law is enacted, residents will be able to cultivate six plants at a time. The bill maxes out individual yearly yields at 480 grams (nearly 17 ounces). Cultivators could also join “membership clubs.” These clubs, consisting of between 15 and 45 members, allow groups to collectively cultivate up to 99 plants.
Those who prefer to purchase their pot would be allowed to do so at pharmacies after registering with the government. The registry will be private and “not made available to potential or current employers.” And although marijuana would be sold through pharmacies, a doctor’s recommendation is not required. Individuals purchasing pot through pharmacies would be allowed up to 40 grams per month (about an ounce and a half).
Only citizens would be permitted to purchase pot, thus stifling any hopes of THC-motivated tourism to Uruguay.
The only potential obstacle to this landmark legalization plan is the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, which last week warned Uruguay that legalized marijuana would “be in complete contravention to the provisions of the international drug treaties to which Uruguay is party.”
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