Uruguay blames administrative error for cannabis export confusion

Uruguayan authorities are blaming an administrative error for recent communication that medical cannabis shipments from the South American country to Israel would not be able to occur.

On Sept. 16, the Israeli health authority notified domestic licensed producers via email that it planned to strengthen quality requirements for medical cannabis imports.

The email, viewed by Marijuana Business Daily, also said imports from Uruguay will not occur for the time being because “we have received a notice from the competent authority in Uruguay that they will not be able to issue export permits for medical cannabis according to our requirements.”

It now appears that notice was sent in error.

Rodrigo Ferres, deputy secretary of the Uruguayan presidency, told MJBizDaily that the communication from Uruguay to Israel was “an unfortunate mistake that shouldn’t have happened and that doesn’t represent the Uruguayan government position, nor is it aligned with recently approved regulations to facilitate cannabis exports.”

“The government official (from the Uruguayan Ministry of Health) who sent that email to Israeli authorities did so without first seeking approval of the Uruguayan minister of health, who already authorized Fotmer export to Israel,” according to Ferres.

He emphasized that the Uruguayan government is committed to supporting the legal cannabis industry and facilitating exports.

“Representing President Lacalle Pou, I’d like solvent companies that invest in the Uruguayan medical cannabis industry to know this government is their ally,” Ferres said.

“We have taken measures to avoid misunderstandings like these from happening in the future, and we’re even considering having a medical cannabis specialist unit within the health ministry to make things as straightforward as possible for companies that want to export.”

Local medical marijuana producer Fotmer said that once the details are resolved, it expects to export the largest single shipment of high-THC flower from Uruguay.

“We’re thankful the Uruguayan government is clearing up this misunderstanding and appreciate we can operate in a country where authorities stand behind licensed producers,” Bruno Gaiero, general counsel of Fotmer told Marijuana Business Daily.

So far, Fotmer remains the only company that has been able to export high-THC medical cannabis from Uruguay.

According to Uruguayan customs information consulted by MJBizDaily, Uruguayan producer Fotmer has already exported almost 2,500 kilograms of high-THC flower to Portugal, 500 kilograms to Israel and 10 kilograms to Australia.

Smaller quantities went to the United States for research purposes.

Fotmer’s latest export was in May.

Israel’s move to tighten import requirements “will be slightly postponed,” according to Israel Cannabis Magazine.

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at alfredop@mjbizdaily.com