New Regs for Uruguay Marijuana Law Aim to Prevent Trafficking

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Uruguay has announced many of the finer details of its marijuana legalization legislation, with regulations that demonstrate a concerted effort to minimize the risk of large-scale trafficking.

According to the new law’s official regulations (pdf), Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents will be able to cultivate a maximum of six cannabis plants per household — based on a yield of 480 grams per year — for personal use. They can also join a cannabis club and buy up to 10 grams a week at a pharmacy authorized to sell the drug. The government is also offering an amnesty allowing individual growers to register existing plants.

During a press conference outlining the law’s newly thrashed out details, the secretary general of Uruguay’s National Drug Council (JND) Julio Calzada announced that these will also limit commercial marijuana production to 10 hectares of state land to cover the country’s estimated 18 to 22 ton annual consumption, reported El Pais. Between two and six private companies will be granted permits to produce marijuana, reported El Observador.

Commercial crop cultivations will be watched over by state security forces, with producers set to foot the bill for their presence.

InSight Crime Analysis

The security guarantees and limits demonstrate an encouraging attempt to allow sufficient production while guarding against criminals taking advantage of the drug’s legal status. The use of state land for large-scale production will act as a shield against illegal cultivation, as well as making identification of legal plantations a clear-cut process. However, both unlicensed cultivation and the risk of large-scale trafficking remain a risk.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay: Marijuana Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

As InSight Crime pointed out in December, controlling the balance of marijuana production will be crucial. Too much restriction could encourage consumers to turn to the black market — including illegal imports from South America’s primary producer Paraguay, which has already expressed concerns regarding the law — while excessive freedom would bolster the arguments of the legislation’s many critics and increase the risk of trafficking.

The main feat for the government in the near future will be to crack down on unlicensed growth and encourage participation in the legal market, which should be made easier by the reasonable price of state-controlled marijuana — roughly $1 per gram. Despite President Jose Mujica’s concerns regarding the entry of cheaper Paraguayan marijuana into the country, the fixed price is comparable to its current retail value in the country, according to the United Nations.

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