Uruguay: The world’s marijuana pioneer

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Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalise recreational cannabis. Five years after its pioneering law was passed, how’s the industry getting on?

“We sold a lot of cannabis on the first day,” says Esteban Riviera, who owns a large, modern-looking pharmacy in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.

“We sold 1,250 packages in six hours. There was a two-block queue to get marijuana.”

The legal sale of cannabis had been much anticipated. Sales began on 19 July 2017, more than three-and-a-half years after Uruguay’s marijuana law had been passed.

“It took them time, the government said, because they want to do it precisely and step by step,” explains Guillermo Draper, a Uruguayan journalist who’s co-written a book on his country’s pioneering experiment.

But this assiduous approach to implementing the marijuana law wasn’t enough to avoid a serious hiccup.

“My bank told me either stop selling cannabis or close my accounts,” says Esteban Riviera, the pharmacist. “I stopped selling cannabis.

“I was the first pharmacy registered to sell cannabis,” he adds, chuckling drily at the irony, “but I was also the first pharmacy that stopped selling cannabis in Uruguay.” [Read more at BBC]

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