Over the counter marijuana now available for purchase in Uruguay

Latin America

A pharmacist register a bag of legal marijuana as he sells it to a customer, at a pharmacy in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Uruguay’s pharmacies began selling marijuana at a state-regulated price, to citizens that have previously registered to be able to buy. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

Uruguay is working to fully implement the legalization of marijuana, approved by Congress in 2013. There are now 16 pharmacies authorization to sell over the counter cannabis to registered users.  

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports from Montevideo.

Two types of marijuana are available to registered users, Alfa 1 and Beta1, giving consumers options.

In a country of nearly 3.5 million, less than 5,000 people have registered to buy over the counter, according to the Cannabis Control and a Regulation Institute, in addition to Cannabis Clubs and registered home-growers.

This is the latest phase in the legalization of marijuana since Congress approved the law in 2013 during the presidency of Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica. Before leaving office, Mujica told CGTN that the war on drugs has failed.

“The world will adopt policies similar to what we are doing, we are conscious that we are in the vanguard of the world, the facts show that over the past century we cannot defeat drugs by prohibition,” Mujica said.

In neighboring Chile and Argentina, medicinal use of marijuana has also been approved in Congress. Some polls, however, suggest more than 60 percent of Uruguayans oppose cannabis legalization.

In a recent interview, Secretary of Human Rights Nelson Villarreal told CGTN there is an overlap in time frames between legalization and social acceptance.

“One thing is the law that legitimizes and legalizes of the right of people to use substances, but this is a strategy against other types of drugs that generate other larger problems. Another issue is how society sees this, which is why it took so long to implement this,” Villarreal said.

This latest and somewhat delayed phase in legalization does not mean that cannabis is openly on sale in coffee shops to tourists and casual users. The philosophy behind this policy has always been to regulate the market, and steer users of this drug away from criminals and into government control. The state not only sells but also produces the cannabis on sale.

Registered users can buy up to 40 grams a month, and with five gram bags costing just six dollars, additional authorized pharmacies may soon be needed to cope with demand.