In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize and regulate the production, distribution and consumption of marijuana. Three and a half years later, pharmacies there finally began selling marijuana, the result of a long and complex regulatory process.
While the government’s strict regulations are likely to limit the emergence of a booming marijuana industry, what impact could full legalization have in Uruguay and beyond? Some lessons and warnings may be found in the illicit trade not of drugs, but of tobacco.
As of July 19, Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents have three ways to access cannabis legally. First, by registering to grow plants at home, which nearly 7,000 people have done so far. Second, by becoming a member of a licensed club—60 clubs have already obtained state approval. Or third, by buying cannabis in a licensed pharmacy, which almost 5,000 people have registered to do. Sixteen pharmacies in Uruguay are now selling cannabis legally at the state-set price of $1.30 a gram.