As activists, public servants, patients, and lobbyists work for the continued reform of America’s marijuana prohibition, some countries are taking a far more radical approach. In countries where marijuana legalization has already happened, the government is creating spaces for medical marijuana patients through federally-sponsored pharmaceutical operations.
When Justin Trudeau ran— and was subsequently elected—for the office of Canadian Prime Minister, one the controversial platforms that propelled him to victory was the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Although the wheels are still turning in Canada, the government has invested more than a hundred million dollars in the cannabis industry to help build a system in which the federal government will oversee the supply and licensing of producers while provinces (states) regulate marijuana distribution, sales, and pricing.
As the wheels of recreational weed turn in Canada—and in select purple states across the United States—one South American country is looking to make space for marijuana in their pharmaceutical industry. This past May, Uruguay inched a bit closer to establishing itself as the first nation in the world to offer over-the-counter cannabis.
This isn’t the first time that Uruguay surprised the world with its government’s stance on marijuana. In 2013, President Jose Mujica signed landmark marijuana legislation into law making Uruguay the first country in the world to with a legalized system for regulating the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana.
The controversial law provided three avenues for Uruguayan citizens to have legal access to cannabis:
At the time, the controversial move put South America at the forefront of liberal marijuana policy for the world and this year’s legislation continues that tradition. While the country has allowed access via the first two avenues established by the 2013 law, political pushback stalled the final piece of the puzzle until this year.
The marijuana legalization program, which was approved earlier this year, officially starts in July. It implements a user registry which any Uruguayan or permanent resident is eligible to sign up for. Those who register also get to enjoy the benefits of rock bottom prices—$1.30 per gram, as set by the Uruguayan government. For those who aren’t good at math, that’s around 90% less than the average gram in an American dispensary.
Our neighbors to the North and the South aren’t the only ones seeing the benefits of a legal marijuana market. Colorado and California already have billion-dollar industries in their respective states while Nevada is anticipating a minimum of $700 million dollars in revenue from recreational marijuana sales over the next two years.