Only five months into legalization, Uruguay is starting to see the positive effects of recreational marijuana. There are about 17,391 registered users since their country-wide roll out in July of this year—up from 5,000 since.
Meanwhile in Canada, legislators argue over the logistics of making cannabis legal throughout the country. Ottawa just proposed a horrendous 50-50 split on the proposed $1 per gram or 10 percent final retail price tax. This has many in an uproar over the apparent greed from the Liberal government, which stated that the marijuana roll out is about keeping the pot away from kids and not money.
This is a time where other countries need to step back and see how it plays out for countries like Uruguay who are handling the concerns and criticisms regarding legality and learn from their mistakes.
So, how does it work in Uruguay?
Citizens are allowed to grow plants at home, or become a member of a local Cannabis Club to withdraw up to 40g of cannabis per month. The small dispensaries are usually overwhelmed with lines of eager customers who wait for hours to get their cannabis. Once inside, they scan their fingerprint to a national database which monitors their use and then they are granted a thermo-sealed pack with their product.
While only 12 of the 1,100 pharmacies in the region have signed up to distribute marijuana, it’s not born out of disdain for the policy but rather because the profit margins are so slim from the reduction in price. Another factor that wasn’t considered was the cooperation from banks who many have been shutting down accounts associated with the cannabis industry. This presents a hurdle for other shops to begin offering cannabis.
This is only some of the problems faced with legalization but Uruguay is making strides to improve this over time. They even increased their THC potency from 2% to 9% after many complained that the original strains meant for medicinal purposes weren’t effective for a large new recreational consumer base.
Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize sales across the entire territory. This brought immediate access to cannabis for over 3.4 million people. The goal was to end drug trafficking and unsafe ingredients mixed into the product from shady dealers. The lawmakers were tasked with finding a price point that could be cheaper than the black market price but also one that’s higher quality—and they did.
“On the street 25 grams of marijuana would cost you 3,000 pesos, that’s about $100 for something with probably a large amount of pesticide, seeds and stems,” says Luciano, a young buyer who spoke to the Guardian, “But here the same amount would cost you only $30, and it comes in guaranteed, premium quality, thermo-sealed 5g packs.”
Known as one of the more liberal South American countries, Uruguay managed to carve out their own unique policies from their ability to separate church and state in a region where the Catholic church remains in power. Uruguay doesn’t even recognize Christmas as a holiday; they refer to it as family day, while Easter week is called tourism week.
Canada should take notes on the success across certain US states and Uruguay who are creating new opportunities and revenue but also facing the many challenges associated with it.