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Uruguay marijuana legalization results in pot scarcity as demand outpaces farmers

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Laura Andrade not too long ago walked out of a pharmacy in Uruguay cursing loudly as a result of she could not purchase authorized pot. The wine sommelier had taken a bus since pharmacies in her neighborhood do not promote the drug, however a pharmacy worker instructed her to return again the subsequent day.

“I work, I can not come right here each day,” she complained. “Immediately, I will have to purchase from an unlawful supplier. I’ve no selection. This method is crap. It is ineffective!”

Marijuana went on sale in Uruguay final yr underneath a 2013 legislation that made it the primary nation to legalize a pot market overlaying your entire chain from vegetation to buy. However the nation continues to be figuring out easy methods to meet demand in its effort to undercut drug traffickers who management the black market.

“The demand is bigger than our productive capability,” the top of Uruguay’s Nationwide Medicine Council, Diego Olivera, instructed The Related Press. “We’ve to deal with that problem.”

It is precisely the other of the issue going through some U.S. states which have legalized marijuana — an oversupply. Oregon and California have such a glut that sellers are slashing costs.

In Uruguay, even discovering authorized marijuana could be a chore, as Andrade found. The legislation lets registered customers purchase as a lot as 40 grams (1.four ounces) of marijuana a month at collaborating pharmacies. However solely 14 of the nation’s estimated 1,200 pharmacies have signed as much as promote marijuana. Many balked on the thought of promoting the drug, as a consequence of low revenue margins or concern of being robbed.

The legislation additionally permits the rising of pot by licensed people and the formation of growers and customers golf equipment.

Olivera estimates 20 to 25 metric tons of marijuana are consumed yearly between the authorized and black market, and educational research say the determine may very well be as excessive as 30 metric tons. That is about thrice what the authorized system might now present at full capability, and officers say it is really been producing much less.

Two corporations are licensed to supply a complete of four tons mixed on the market to pharmacies, however officers say they solely not too long ago started assembly that concentrate on. Olivera mentioned officers are contemplating granting extra licenses.

“There was no expertise with farming on a big scale and it took some time to lastly nail the expertise, the workforce and the drying course of,” Olivera mentioned.

Harvesting the marijuana was a troublesome course of from the beginning, mentioned Eduardo Blasina, an agronomy engineer who held a minority stake within the corporations that provide pharmacies.

“It is a advanced crop, and the buyers behind these corporations did not come from a tradition of hashish,” he mentioned. “You’d inform them: It’s essential to purchase 50 followers, one thing that is very obligatory in some cases, and so they’d have a look at you as if you happen to had been an alien.”

Individuals line up early within the morning in entrance of a pharmacy to purchase marijuana in Montevideo, Uruguay, in a July 19, 2017 file picture.


Uruguay’s eight,750 registered particular person growers are allowed to reap as much as 480 grams (a little bit over a pound) every per yr. If all met that determine, it could complete about four tons per yr. There are additionally 90 customers golf equipment with 2,529 members. In the event that they had been to supply their most quantity, it could come to about one other ton yearly.

An estimated 147,000 Uruguayans between the ages of 18 and 65 devour marijuana, with a couple of third of them utilizing it weekly. However up to now solely about 35,000 have registered to make use of the authorized marijuana system. Even with authorized customers sharing their pot, Uruguay’s hashish management institute says that the regulated market reaches nearly half the nation’s customers.

Most of Uruguay’s 19 provinces nonetheless do not have marijuana dispensaries, despite the fact that the variety of individuals registered to purchase on the pharmacies has jumped from four,959 when the gross sales started in July 2017 to 24,117 right now.

Pharmacy worker Lino Celle says marijuana arrives as soon as per week at his enterprise. “They’re supposed to supply us with about four kilograms, however solely depart us three,” he mentioned.

“The system is ridiculous. I reside distant, work and research. It is too difficult to purchase like this,” mentioned an area chef who requested to stay nameless as a result of he does not need to be stigmatized for smoking pot.

“I am right here to purchase it however they will not promote it to me as a result of I got here some hours early” at a pharmacy that distributes marijuana on an appointment foundation. “If the legislation says that is authorized, what’s the issue?”

Some complain in regards to the high quality.

“That is the final time we purchase,” mentioned Jose Luis Bertullo who got here to the pharmacy along with his associate, Jazmin Texeira. “This marijuana does not actually hit you as a lot,” he mentioned, including that the 2 need to register to develop their very own. “It is going to be significantly better to have our personal little plant,” he mentioned.

Uruguay launched its government-regulated marijuana market in an effort to combat rising murder and crime charges linked with illicit drug trafficking. But drug violence has elevated for the reason that legislation went into the impact. Inside Minister Eduardo Bonomi says fights between felony gangs, largely related to medicine, made up 59 p.c of all homicides within the first quarter of 2018, roughly double the share in 2012.

Final yr, the nation’s murder price was eight.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, the second-highest in almost 30 years, although nonetheless much better than the speed for neighboring Brazil.

“There have by no means been as many drug traffickers and drug violence as right now,” Former President Julio Maria Sanguinetti, an opponent of legalization, instructed Telemundo tv.

Olivera and different officers, although, say the plan simply wants extra time.

“It may be a yr in July for the reason that sale within the pharmacies started,” Olivera mentioned. “We by no means considered eliminating the black market in a short while; it was at all times a gradual factor. … This does not occur in a single day.”

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