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Uruguay Releases Regulations for World’s First National Legal Marijuana Market

Consumers Must Choose Between 3 Forms of Access: Domestic Cultivation, Membership Clubs, or Licensed Sales in Pharmacies.

On Friday, Uruguay released its long-anticipated regulations accompanying the law that was signed into effect last December, which made Uruguay the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, sale and consumption of marijuana for adults. The government will now embark on the implementation of the legal marijuana market, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014. The regulations for medical marijuana are to be released later this summer.

The Uruguayan marijuana regulation system will allow Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 to choose between three forms of access to non-medical marijuana: domestic cultivation of up to 6 plants per household; membership clubs where between 15 and 45 members can collectively grow up to 99 plants; and sales in licensed pharmacies of up to 10 grams per week. Those operating outside the regulated and licit system will face penalties.

Marijuana consumers will have to register with the government for one of the three options. The registry data will be confidential and protected. Regardless of the form of access, each individual will only be able to possess 480 grams of marijuana per year. The government has also granted a 180-day amnesty period during which individuals can register their current plants, after which it will only accept applications seeking prior permission to grow marijuana plants.

All forms of advertising and promotion of use are prohibited, as is smoking in closed, public spaces, in the workplace, and at health establishments, schools and sports institutions. Driving under the influence of marijuana is not allowed, and the newly created Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), tasked with regulating and controlling the whole system, will set the THC limits and types of test performed for DUI. Consumption at or during work is also prohibited.

The regulations include strong education and health components. While educational centers may ban people who are impaired from marijuana consumption from entering the premises, they are then obliged to offer support and information on marijuana use. Membership clubs also must educate and inform their members about responsible marijuana consumption and the IRCCA must promote harm and risk reduction strategies related to problematic use of marijuana.

And though the price of marijuana was not set in the regulations, during Friday’s press conference Presidential Under-Secretary Diego Canepa announced that the price would be flexible, and would begin at roughly $1 per gram, in an effort to undercut the current illicit market for marijuana.

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance:

“No regulatory scheme is perfect but Uruguay’s new marijuana regulations are clearly well thought out. Many elements of their regulatory scheme, notably the membership club option, deserve to be considered in the United States as more states move to legally regulate marijuana.

“President Mujica’s leadership on this issue has been extraordinary. Who would have imagined, when he first suggested less than two years ago that Uruguay begin to legally regulate marijuana, that his proposal would have advanced so far so quickly?”

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