Pot Was Flying Off the Shelves in Uruguay. Then U.S. Banks Weighed In.

Pot Was Flying Off the Shelves in Uruguay. Then U.S. Banks Weighed In.

Published on 8/24/17

Uruguay passed it's marijuana law back in 2013, becoming the world's first country to fully legalize and regulate the plant. After years of planning and successfully kicking off the program, the country was met with surprising news, if they continued to sell their newly regulated product, American banks would stop doing business with banks in Uruguay. This is a huge threat to the banks of Uruguay, so it's no surprise that the pharmacies licensed to sell cannabis have nearly halted sales. No pharmacy is willing to risk their entire business for potential gain, despite marijuana being a hot commodity. The real issue though is that the whole point of Uruguay's legalizing of cannabis was to properly regulate the drug and fight drug trafficking. Uruguayans had just started buying cannabis legally, but now they must go back into the black market because of the United State's failed prohibition forcing other countries to follow suite.

Afraid of losing access to the American banking system, Uruguayan banks warned some of the pharmacies over last couple of weeks that their accounts would be shut down, potentially signaling a broader international impasse as other countries, including Canada, set out to legalize marijuana.

“It is ironic that laws aimed at fighting drug trafficking and money laundering have created a roadblock for a system that intends to do just that,” said Hannah Hetzer, an analyst at the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports decriminalization of marijuana. “Uruguay is creating a legal market that displaces the illicit marijuana market.”

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