Despite Uruguay’s then president José Mujica signing into the country becoming the first Latin American nation to legalize marijuana sales last May, further progress remains stilted.
The process remains in a gray area, as legal rulings continue to slow the final phase.
New reforms, it was argued, would enable better control of the marijuana market, making a higher quality version of the drug available over the counter.
Measures passed by Uruguay’s senate in 2013, would now allow users access in three ways: purchase from pharmacies, home-based growing or collective “grow clubs”, according to the Guardian.
Yet storage concerns appear to be one of the primary issues delaying a final “yes” vote.
Grow clubs are a popular phenomenon across Montevideo. Here, growers can cultivate up to 99 plants, with membership tapped at 45 members.
Strict rules govern club members – it is illegal to be a member of a grow club and cultivate your own crop at home, nor can you belong to more than one club.
Clubs boast different marijuana varieties, from “gourmet” to flavoured marijuana.
“We have a very high quality of weed here,” Joaquín Fonseca, president of Montevideo’s Club Canabico Sativa told Clarín. “I’m happy because I can smoke it.”
But membership can get expensive, Canabico requires an annual $400 payment in addition to a monthly $92 from members.
Over the counter
Uruguay’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (Ircca) is charged with providing the country’s pharmacy network a new list of regulations for marijuana sales.
Around 250 pharmacies are set to form part of the sales network, after meeting with the safe storage requirements of the drug – up to two kilos can be kept in a locked away for purchase.
Buyers will be able to purchase up to 10 grams a week, a 40 gram monthly limit.
“The pharmacy can only acquire cannabis at $0.90 per gram.” Ircca’s document outlines, cited in Búsqueda magazine.
Whilst pharmacies are ready to receive and stock marijuana, sourcing legitimate growers and providing secure storage continue to pose problems.
Safety and sales
Pharmacy security appears to be the government’s primary concern before finally beginning nationwide sales.
Ircca’s document stipulates that marijuana must be stored in a locked cabinet, chained to the wall if necessary, with space for up to two kilos.
“We are in the final phase of the process, its been difficult, but that’s why we have granted companies longer terms to ensure that nothing goes wrong.” Milton Romani, head of Uruguay’s National Drug Board commented last month.
For now Uruguay continues to wait, tantalisingly close to finally legally lighting up.
See more: The latest on Uruguay’s marijuana law