The large cola of a mature cannabis plant just before it's harvested.

Rory Savatgy

Uruguay Cannabis Marketplace Experiencing Shortages

Uruguay was the first nation in the world to legalize cannabis for adult use. One year after the market’s launch, however, the country still struggles to meet demand, according to The  Associated Press.

Diego Olivera, head of Uruguay’s National Drugs Council, said it’s been almost a year since the legal market launched and it has involved a steep learning curve.

“The demand is greater than our productive capacity. We have to address that challenge.” — Diego Olivera, head of Uruguay’s National Drugs Council, to The Associated Press.

In Uruguay, legal cannabis consumers must register with the government, which allows them to purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month from participating pharmacies. Individuals who wish to grow their own cannabis can do so but must sign up on a government registry, and those who do so are limited to harvesting about a pound of product per year; there are 8,750 registered individual growers in the country. Similarly, grower and user clubs are allowed — but they also need the government’s approval.

Most Uruguayan provinces do not contain a pharmacy distributing cannabis products, meaning many citizens who want to buy legal cannabis must travel to find it. Only 14 of the country’s some 1,200 pharmacies actually stock cannabis products; most pharmacies say it’s not worth the small profit margins and increased risk of robbery.

As shortages persist, customers are beginning to turn back to the unregulated marketplace — customers like Montevideo resident Laura Andrade.

“I work, I can’t come here every day. Today, I’ll have to buy from an illegal dealer. I have no choice. This system is crap. It’s useless!” — Laura Andrade, to the Associated Press

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