Uruguay has charted new territory with its push to legalise a regulated cannabis trade. This is the first regime of its kind in the modern world. American states are still technically operating under federal prohibition. Other countries like Spain and the Netherlands use loopholes in EU law to regulate for personal use of cannabis. Uruguay sets a new course, with the government actively involved in cannabis sale.

Before you book your flight there, you should know just how tightly controlled this regime will be.

KEEPING IT LOCAL

Sorry, tourists; only Uruguayan nationals can access this new cannabis market. There is no criminal penalty for smoking, but only Uruguayan citizens are allowed to buy. Jurisdictions that have opened up to cannabis, like Amsterdam, face problems of legally-acquired drugs being trafficked to other countries. In this case, Uruguay does not want their product supporting black markets in neighbouring Brazil and Argentina.

KEEPING IT MONITORED

Uruguay citizens over 18 must be registered in a database of cannabis users before they can buy. They will have their fingerprints scanned at each purchase. This prevents them from buying more than 40 grams of cannabis in one month. This has been controversial among many Uruguayans who previously lived under dictatorship. The government insists that personal data are not shared with anyone outside cannabis regulation, not even the police. Over 4,600 citizens have registered with this database. They have three options for accessing cannabis.

Uruguay parliament legalisation cannabis

OPTION #1: PERSONAL CULTIVATION

Nearly 7,000 citizens have registered with the government to grow cannabis for personal use. One can grow up to 6 flowering cannabis plants at home. Their annual yield must not exceed 480g (or 17 oz.). If that's too much work for you...

OPTION #2: CANNABIS CLUBS

Between 15 and 45 citizens can form a co-operative cannabis club where resources are pooled to cultivate plants. The membership requirements are more restrictive than in cannabis clubs found in other jurisdictions. These clubs also face a cultivation limit of 99 plants. But, it's a way to organise growing some high-quality cannabis with like-minded people. If that's too much work for you...

OPTION #3: PHARMACIES

Just go to one of the pharmacies that is registered to sell cannabis. They were chosen as dispensary facilities given their experience in handling controlled substances. Many of the country's pharmacies opted out of providing this service. The price initially set by the government was $1.30 per gram with five-gram packets being sold for $6.50. This cannabis is produced by one of two cultivators contracted by the government.

Concerns over the public health impact of cannabis have led to a tightly-regulated regime. Whether it is too restrictive will continue to be the subject of much debate. But the more places cannabis is legalised, the more experience we will have to find the right balance in regulating this highly beneficial plant.

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