By Richard Farrell
Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica is a humble man. The world respects his vision for the future of his homeland, which is embodied in the country’s motto, “freedom or death.” Power has not distracted Mujica from the task at hand. He drives a 1987 Volkswagen and lives in a one-bedroom house. Since he is aging and still has much to accomplish, he has a reputation for getting things done.
On May 6, 2014, Uruguay became the first country to declare marijuana legal within a framework of regulations that makes policies in Washington and Colorado seem like something dreamed up at pot parties. Every Uruguayan consumer must register to remain within the system, and choose one of three ways to access their cannabis.
These options are to (1) grow their own at home to a maximum of six plants, or (2) be a member of a collective numbering 15 to 45 members tending a maximum of ninety-nine plants, or (3) purchase no more than ten grams a week from a pharmacy with a special license. No person may possess a cumulative amount greater than 480 grams over the course of a year.
These numbers do not add up for marijuana investors, especially since any form of marijuana advertising is illegal in a country of less than 3.5 million people. President Jose Mujica summed up the situation when he said, “We aren’t going to promote smoke fests, bohemianism … what [the policy] aims to do is to keep it all within reason, and not allow it to become an illness.”
Developments in Uruguay are certainly no threat to American marijuana tour operators. CNN reports foreigners can neither buy nor smoke pot there, and distributors and sellers will need licenses. Mujica’s goal is to work the price of marijuana down to a point that penalties for drug trafficking outweigh benefits.
The new rules are something of a bonanza for civil servants who track and barcode every bag of marijuana, after verifying the contents against pre-approved genetic information in their databases. This is not a proposition for serious-minded marijuana traders, but that is what President Jose Mujica appears to have in mind.