Come July and Uruguay will become the first country across the globe to allow legal sale of cannabis across its entirety. While the cultivation of the plant was legalized in 2014, the country has never outlawed the ingestion of recreational drugs. In a strange quirk, the ban on cultivation before 2014 only encouraged people to source cannabis from illegal channels.
The arrest that sparked off the demand for legalization
It was the arrest of author Alicia Castilla, who had written the book Cultura Cannabis that sparked off massive protests across the country demanding legalization of cannabis cultivation. She had grown a few cannabis plants at home and had some marijuana in possession when she was arrested and locked up. Media coverage and public support forced the law makers to rethink their stance on the arrest and also on the restrictions on cultivation. Now, marijuana users will be able to get access to the unadulterated, certified version easily and legally. It is hoped that Uruguay's step in this direction will show other countries like Colombia that have narcotics issues a simpler and more effective way to regulate and deal with their problem.
The restrictions that still apply
The legal sanction does not come with a blanket permit to grow cannabis at will, though. There are restrictions that still apply. For those who want to grow cannabis at home, the government requires them to get a permit that will allow them to grow a maximum of six plants. Cannabis clubs have come up following the legalization efforts but these too are restricted to 45 members who can each take home a maximum of 40 grams of marijuana per month from the club's plantation.
Accessible only at pharmacies
Another key restriction that will come into force from July when the law is effective is that the legal marijuana will be sold only at pharmacies. While Uruguay residents can buy their marijuana over the counter at pharmacies, they will be required to register with the government before they can make their first purchase. A digital thumb scan will help maintain identification accuracy during subsequent withdrawals of marijuana. The weekly withdrawal amount has been capped at 10 gram for now. However, the good news is that the pricing of the legal marijuana makes it easily accessible and affordable. Priced at $ 1.30 per gram, this will deal a death blow to illegal purveyors who typically sell at $3.