Global Cannabis: Uruguay

Uruguay

Uruguay led the world in legalizing recreational marijuana, but the country that immortalized Gen. Jose Gervasio Artigas for leading it to nationhood is lagging in commercial business opportunities. Photo by Olaf Speier

Milestones in the Medical Cannabis Program

The law legalizing medical and recreational cannabis was approved in December 2013, but implementation has proceeded slowly.

 

Key Laws and Regulations

  • Law 19.172–2013, and its regulatory decrees

 

Market Data

Here’s a snapshot of the recreational market as of the end of June 2019:

  • 36,487 customers.
  • 7,163 home growers.
  • More than 3,400 members of 123 cannabis clubs where collective growing is allowed.
  • Two companies have a license to grow high-THC medical marijuana, at least a dozen to grow hemp and at least another dozen to perform cannabis research.
  • Only a handful of licenses for manufacturing have been granted so far.
  • As of mid-2019, approximately 3,000 kilograms of recreational marijuana had been sold in pharmacies to registered customers.
  • The medical market is limited.

 

Products Available in the Market

  • Only one domestic company, Medicplast, has been able to register a medical cannabis product. The product, Epifractan, is an oil available with either 2% or 5% CBD and less than 0.5% THC. The company also registered a topical CBD product. The raw material for manufacturing these products is currently being imported from Switzerland.
  • Patients are allowed to import individual products from other countries on a case-by-case basis. Bulk imports for distribution are prohibited.
  • In the recreational market, users have a choice of two strains of flower capped at 9% THC.

 

North American Companies in the Market

The most notable examples are:

  • Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis acquired ICC Labs, one of just two companies with a license to grow recreational marijuana in Uruguay.
  • Ontario-based Auxly Cannabis Group acquired Inverell, a domestic hemp grower.
  • Khiron Life Sciences (listed in Canada but with its main operations in Colombia) acquired Dormul, one of two companies with a medical license.

 

Big Picture

  • Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana in all forms—industrial, medical and recreational—at the end of 2013.
  • Since then, only two companies have been growing recreational marijuana for commercial purposes. The marijuana is sold to pharmacies, currently the only retailers where consumers can buy MJ. The price is fixed by the government; the current retail price is about $1.30 per gram for the two strains that companies can grow.
  • Users can access recreational cannabis one of three ways: sales in pharmacies, home growing or through not-for-profit cannabis clubs.
  • The government has opened an application process to increase the number of recreational commercial cultivators.

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