Progress, setbacks for Uruguay’s cannabis industry in 1st year

More than a year after Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana at the national level, no cannabis has legally been sold, thanks largely to administrative delays.

But there has been some progress.

Roughly 500 cannabis clubs have sprouted up across the country, and the country’s first major marijuana expo – which focused on the industrial, medical and therapeutic uses of the drug – drew more than 6,000 attendees, according to NBC. And around 1,200 individuals have signed up to grow cannabis at home.

These developments have reportedly helped undercut drug cartels that profited from black market marijuana sales.

The business side of the new law has suffered some setbacks, though.

Last August, the government announced that 20 private companies had submitted bids to grow cannabis under the country’s marijuana program. The government is supposed to select five from that group but has yet to do so.

It’s also unclear how the market will develop.

All marijuana will ostensibly be sold via pharmacies. But Uruguayan pharmacists have resisted, with members of the country’s Association of Chemistry and Pharmacy threatening to quit their jobs if they’re required to add cannabis to their inventory.

Additionally, the government has backed itself into a pricing corner by promising that marijuana will be sold at just $1 a gram to compete with the black market. That rounds out to about $3.50 in U.S. currency per ounce – which experts say is simply not a realistic price.