Uruguay Carries Out the First Harvest of Legal Recreational Cannabis

Uruguay Carries Out the First Harvest of Legal Recreational Cannabis

Uruguay, the world’s first country to, under Jose Mujica’s presidency, legalise the production and consumption of cannabis, took the big step of starting to cultivate commercial cannabis last autumn. The Uruguayan government assigned the cultivation of cannabis to two private companies, and has moreover announced that it would be on sale in pharmacies within about eight months. It seems we can now benefit from the legalisation of cannabis in Uruguay, as well as the first harvest of legal recreational cannabis.


About two and half years have passed since the Parliament of Uruguay approved the pioneering Law on the Regulation of Cannabis, which regulates the cannabis market and provides for the government to oversee the commercial production of cannabis, while distribution is left to the private sector. The Law also authorises the sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational, medicinal and industrial uses.

Following the awarding of cannabis cultivation to two private companies on 1 of October 2015, and the announcement that cannabis would be sold to the public at approved pharmacies probably from May 2016, the Uruguayan government also launched a new public information and “awareness-raising” campaign on “the consequences of cannabis consumption.” The government’s plan consists of implementing a policy that safeguards public health and minimises harm, as well as helping to combat drug trafficking and organised crime.

The two companies that were selected in the official tender for the plantation and distribution of commercial cannabis by the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), Simbiosys and Iccorp, will initially produce two tonnes of cannabis a year, aimed at a potential market of 160,000 users in a country of almost 3.5 million people. In the third week of June of this year, both companies began the process of harvesting, and the data suggests that they are reaping about 300 grams per plant in this first harvest.

Uruguay Carries out the 1st harvest of legal cannabis grown by two private companies (CC. deviat_ed)
Uruguay Carries out the 1st harvest of legal cannabis grown by two private companies (CC. deviat_ed)

From harvest to distribution in pharmacies

According to a press statement issued by the president of the National Drugs Council (JND), Juan Andrés Roballo, “we will soon have the first harvest from the two firms awarded the government contract,” and that both companies have been working since February on producing cannabis in the fields and facilities of the IRCCA. The cannabis was planted under the most stringent security measures. According to government sources, everything that has been done up to now has been monitored and audited, and this will continue to be the case, in order to ensure that the process is properly conducted, given that this is a novel experience for the country, and practically the first of its kind in the world.

The available information suggests that the cannabis plants will continue to be harvested during the following week in June and once harvesting has been completed, 15 days will have to be set aside to dry and cure the cannabis, and a further seven days to prune the plants.

For the next three weeks, the process of packing and packaging will be carried out. The cannabis will also be stored for its subsequent distribution. Once the entire process is completed sometime in August, the cannabis will start to be sold in pharmacies, which will receive the end product in packages of 5 and 10 grams.

It appears that in total there will be 50 pharmacies participating in the legal sale of cannabis scheme, which according to Roballo’s statement at the beginning of June, is probably enough to kick-start the project. These establishments will be in charge of distributing the cannabis to consumers.

The cannabis cultivated in Uruguay can be purchased by registered consumers from pharmacies participating in the scheme (CC. James McNally)
The cannabis cultivated in Uruguay can be purchased by registered consumers from pharmacies participating in the scheme (CC. James McNally)

The terms of the agreement with Uruguayan pharmacies

In order to set the terms under which pharmacies will be selling the cannabis produced in the country, pharmaceutical associations came to an agreement and signed a contract with the IRCCA, which took several months of negotiations and which established the basic terms that govern the distribution system in pharmacies of psychoactive cannabis for non-medical use, and the terms for its sale, which will begin half-way through the year. In other words, soon.

The agreement was published by the local press and “sets the basic terms for implementation, specifies a membership system that pharmacies can voluntarily join and details how the product will be distributed securely.” The agreement falls under the implementation of law 19.172, which was approved in 2013 by the Uruguayan Congress, and authorises and regulates the production and sale of cannabis.

Signing this agreement was a initial step for the IRCCA and the association of pharmacies, which enabled them to subsequently deal with all matters concerning requests and submissions from the companies awarded the production contract, all of which will be supervised by the Institute of Regulation. The pharmacies will also be provided with all the information they need with regard to the sale and storage of cannabis.

According to the official announcement, the second stage of implementation involves performing “the technical and connectivity tests of the IRCCA’s information system, which will ensure the traceability, and that orders and deliveries can be monitored.”

The agreement also specifies that the sale price to pharmacies will be $0.90 per gram during the first year of production, and the final price to end consumers will be just over a dollar.

Cannabis distribution to pharmacies

The cannabis will be packaged and distributed from the production sites to the licensed pharmacies across the country at least once every 15 days.

In addition, the government has specified that pharmacies must use the Pharmacies Web Portal developed by the IRCCA to place their orders. The institute itself will oversee the orders and reserves “the right to make changes depending on the availability criterion.”

Furthermore, there are specifications which vehicles used for transportation and distribution must meet. These “must be closed, unidentified, equipped with satellite tracking and capable of transporting up to 100 kilograms of cannabis, distributed in packages of 5 and 10 grams.” The entire process must be guarded and monitored by a security team, as in any other large scale operation involving the legal cultivation of cannabis.

The cannabis will be distributed by the pharmacies in packages of 5 and 10 grams (CC. Sergey Galyonkin)
The cannabis will be distributed by the pharmacies in packages of 5 and 10 grams (CC. Sergey Galyonkin)

Packaging the cannabis

The cannabis will be provided to pharmacies in labelled packages of either 5 or 10 grams, each with an insert. According to official sources, the information on the package must state the authorised plant specialty with psychoactive properties, its scientific name, variety and the content of THE and COD as a percentage, as well as the administration method (inhalation, infusion or vaporisation) and the importance of reading the inserted leaflet.

The product’s net weight must also be mentioned, as well as the producer’s name, license number, batch number, expiry date and clear storage instructions.

Compulsory leaflet

The product must be accompanied by a leaflet within the package that contains information for the patient on the product’s characteristics. All leaflets should be identically formatted so that the user can easily find information on the medicine’s composition, indications, dosage, contraindications, precautions, side effects and interactions with other drugs.

For cannabis grown in Uruguay, the leaflet must warn buyers that cannabis consumption carries health risks, affects the central nervous system (although interestingly the effects are very beneficial to sufferers of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), may result in dependency and that it may produce undesirable effects if combined with alcohol or other psychoactive substances (but nevertheless may help). Consumers should be advised to consult to their doctor before consuming cannabis in case they have an existing acute and/or chronic condition, or if they experience any side effects.

Moreover, a warning must be included that the product is to be kept out of reach of minors (i.e. those under 18 years of age) and that it should not be consumed in their presence, as well as a warning that its use is not recommended during pregnancy or while breast-feeding, and that users should not drive vehicles or operate machinery under the influence of cannabis.

The packaged cannabis must be accompanied by a medical leaflet, as with all legal medicines (CC. gaelx)
The packaged cannabis must be accompanied by a medical leaflet, as with all legal medicines (CC. gaelx)

How cannabis consumers can sign up

Consumer registration will be totally confidential. They may purchase up to 10 grams per week, that is to say, 40 grams per month per person at licensed pharmacies.

In order to sign up for the national registry at Uruguay’s post office branches, consumers must meet certain requirements, such as being of legal age and a Uruguayan citizen. Foreign residents must prove they have been living in Uruguay for at least two years.

According to legislation, cannabis may not be sold to minors, i.e. those under 18 years of age. In addition, it must be clearly specified that the product is for personal consumption (i.e. can only be sold in pharmacies) and consumed solely within the borders of Uruguay. Furthermore, the resale of cannabis both in Uruguay and abroad is prohibited.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the current regulation specifies that “it is prohibited to come to work under the influence of cannabis or to consume it during working hours or in the workplace.” Users are also prohibited from driving under the influence of cannabis and may not consume it in enclosed public spaces.

Uruguay is making progress towards cannabis regulation

Clearly this is a work in progress and Uruguay is continuing to make progress in finalising its project for the regulation of commercial cannabis. In the process, it has become a pioneer in monitoring and regulating such a complex and controversial market. Uruguay will be competing in price and above all, product quality, and the people who will benefit the most will be the Uruguayans, who will see an impact both in their health and their wallets.

Uruguay has shown that there is a different way to deal with the problems posed by drugs, and in particular, the issue of cannabis. Instead of following the standard prohibitionist stance, Uruguay prefers to take a regulatory approach. As such, the government is able to safeguard the health of Uruguayans and their individual freedoms, as well as encourage social responsibility.

There is no doubt that this country’s approach is innovative, and it is being watched closely and eagerly by the rest of the world. At a time such as this, when worldwide there seems to be two strongly opposing attitudes towards cannabis – in some countries you can be sentenced to death for personal consumption, whereas in others, markets are being regulated – and a variety of models and variations within these models, the Uruguayan model stands out as an alternative that deserves close attention.

The post Uruguay Carries Out the First Harvest of Legal Recreational Cannabis appeared first on Sensi Seeds Blog.

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