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Uruguay Pharmacies Hesitant About Selling Legal Marijuana

The New York Times reports that many pharmacy operators in Uruguay are hesitant about carrying marijuana at their shops due to fears about the safety of their employees and security of their businesses. So far just 50 of the country’s 1,200 pharmacies have registered with the government to sell legal cannabis.

Uruguay legalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis in 2013 in an effort to combat homicide and crime rates associated with drug trafficking. Two companies, International Cannabis Corp and SIMbiosys, harvested the first legal crops in the country last month.

Under the plan, marijuana prices are set at $1.20 per gram, and Uruguayans can buy up to 40 grams per month. The law allows registered individuals and cannabis clubs to grow up to 99 plants each. However some pharmacists — tabbed by the government to sell the drug — said in addition to the potential security issues, paperwork, cost increases, and customer opposition forced them to decline to participate in the program.

“My customers generally don’t agree with the plan,” Isabel Regent, head of the Association of Interior Pharmacies said in the report. “Besides the fear of robberies, enrolling in the system means a hike in costs and having to be up to date with all the paperwork demanded by the health ministry, and not all pharmacies are in a condition to do this.”

According to Gonzalo Miranda, a spokesman for the Uruguayan Chamber of Pharmacies, one union leader told government officials that some pharmacists have already been threatened by marijuana dealers who operate in the neighborhoods where the pharmacies are located.

Fernando Gil, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said no such reports had been filed to police.

One pharmacist, unnamed in the report due to his customers’ negative opinion of the plan, said he signed up but is not sure he will actually sell the drug.

“I’m missing a lot of information,” the pharmacist said. “They haven’t explained anything to us about the information program that will be used or how the drug will be sold or how profitable it will be.”

Marijuana is expected to be for sale to Uruguayan residents 18 and older later this month.

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