First of all, let’s get it straight. There will be no sales of cannabis to visitors to Uruguay.
To be able to buy weed, you’ll need to be Uruguayan or a resident. So no, Uruguay is not the next Amsterdam. There will be no brown cafes.
But all is not lost, Uruguayans are super-friendly about offering their home-grown, and cannabis tours are available.
So read on for more about the legal situation including how it affects travellers.
Buying weed in Uruguay
Customers will need to register at the pharmacy with the information being fed to a central database. Anyone consuming their limit will be flagged for treatment or to see if they are selling their stash (which will be illegal).
Oh, but there’s a problem. Currently there is no marijuana to buy, nor is any likely to be available because of the growing cycle until the end of 2015 at the earliest.
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But say you are a visitor to Uruguay and someone offers you a joint or some marijuana as a gift – it’s yours for the smoking!
Personal use of cannabis has been decriminalised in Uruguay as far back as 1974. What is illegal is selling.
If you are wondering, Uruguay’s marijuana laws regarding public consumption are similar to the tobacco laws.
Over 18s can smoke pot anywhere other than a public building or enclosed place of work. So you can’t smoke inside a cafe or restaurant (a place of work for the wait staff) but you can smoke at the outdoor tables.
You can find friendly accommodation through Bud & Breakfast, the airbnb for marijuana enthusiasts, by typing “Uruguay” into their search engine.
Growing your own
To be able to grow your own marijuana in Uruguay, first you have to register – at the post office.
I LOVE this. If you want to take the drama out of marijuana, pass this law. Don’t ask growers to register with the police. No, make it the good old homespun postal service. So Uruguayan.
Then any household can grow up to 6 plants*. Groups of between fifteen and 45 people can join together to form a “Club de Cannabis” and grow up to 99 plants*.
Registering to grow
Of course people are worried about the privacy issues around this central database. How can you be sure if the information will not be used by other government departments? This has turned off a fair few people from registering as growers already.
However I was really surprised when the law first came into effect a spoof video was filmed where real people were lured into a pharmacy in Parque Rodó (love the rasta chemist) under the pretence that a marijuana sales pilot was underway. On the video, you see people happily providing fingerprints and having their photo taken to get registered. So maybe there will not be as much adverse reaction to registering when the supply finally comes available.
Isn’t Uruguayan pot going to be super cheap?
Stories in the media abound that licensed pharmacies will sell the drug for less than 1 USD a gramme –which is a tenth of what the same quantity would cost in the US.
My contacts at the Uruguayan Association for Cannabis Studies stress that this is pure speculation – no-one has sat down and calculated the real costs of production.
* female, in flower
This article has benefited from the help of Rosina at AECU, the Uruguayan Association for Cannabis Studies in Parque Rodó, Montevideo.
Find friendly accommodation through Bud & Breakfast, the Airbnb for marijuana enthusiasts, by typing “Uruguay” into their search engine. You’ll find our own little guesthouse there. You might want to watch this testimony from a recent guest.
Find out more about Uruguay’s enlightened political history where drugs and alcohol are concerned