In late 2013 Uruguay became the first country to pass a national cannabis legalization policy. It took a while for Uruguay to get its legal cannabis sales system into place, with legal sales not starting until this year. Uruguay sells legal cannabis via pharmacies, with citizens being able to purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis a month with a price tag of only $1.30 per gram.
By all accounts the implementation of a regulated sales system went smooth other than shortages of the product, which has been a common occurrence in the United States too when a new state rolls out legal sales. I don’t consider a shortage to be an issue, so long as cannabis is being sold to people that are of legal age to purchase it. After Uruguay became the first country to see a legal sale/purchase of adult-use cannabis, I am happy to say that the sky has remained intact.
Unfortunately, Uruguay’s new industry is seeing a problem that has been plaguing American cannabis companies – stigma from the banking industry. Form what it sounds like, banks in Uruguay are refusing to work with legal cannabis companies. Per the Associated Press:
The legal sale of marijuana in Uruguayan pharmacies is facing challenges as banks refuse to deal with companies linked to the drug in order to follow international financial laws.
A government official said Friday that Uruguayan banks risk running afoul of laws that ban receiving money tied to the drug. The official was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
In July, marijuana went up for sale at 16 pharmacies as part of a 2013 law that made Uruguay first to legalize a pot market covering the entire chain from plants to purchase.
But one pharmacy in the capital, Montevideo, has decided not to sell it after a warning by a local branch of Spanish bank Santander. The bank said it has opted to remain out of this line of business.
It is really sad to see a program going so well, just to have it hindered by banking issues that should be a no-brainer to fix. Just as the banking industry needs a significant, meaningful overhaul of its cannabis policies in the United States, so too is reform needed at the international level. If a country wants to legalize cannabis and allow regulated sales, they should be allowed to do so while still being able to have viable banking options at their disposal. Other countries are going to follow in Uruguay’s footsteps, so this is an issue that needs to be remedied sooner rather than later.