The first country to legalize pot is taking it slow
Published on Sep 16, 2018
Uruguay becamee the first nation to legalize cannabis back in 2013 and they have since taken the slow road in regulation to be sure they do it properly. After 5 years the country only has 14 total pharmacies that are able to sell cannabis all of which coming from 2 government suppliers. There aren't more pharmacies selling cannabis because it's proven to be an expensive venture, and even more are disinterested because their dollars are routed through U.S. banks meaning they are forced to remain cash businesses very similar to how most dispensaries are run in the U.S. Still, the market is thriving with over 24,000 registered buyers who are able to purchase up to 40 grams per month. Officials believe they are slowly beating the black market by selling product around the same price it's found illegally--$1.40 per gram. Though only residents are able to purchase cannabis through the state so tourists may still be buying cannabis illegally. Despite it's problems, there is much potential in Uruguay's cannabis market and now that Canada has become the second nation to legalize recreationally there is a great chance that banks in Canada would be willing to work with Uruguayan pharmacies helping the industry thrive even further.
As of May, there were 24,324 registered buyers, according to IRCCA, the state department dedicated to the regulation and control of cannabis.
But because Uruguay's economy runs on dollars, most pharmacies are routed through US banks. Those banks are forbidden by US law to serve accounts that "involve the manufacture, importation, sale, or distribution of a controlled substance."
"The big US-based banks sent a memo to their Uruguayan counterparts, telling them they'd have to close their accounts if they proceeded," Walsh said.