Uruguay sets price of legalised cannabis at $1 a gram
Country likely to become first to have state-controlled marijuana industry, and hopes low price will push traffickers out of market
Uruguay is set to become the first country in the world where the sale of cannabis will not only become legal and government-controlled, but at around $1 a gram probably also the one with the most affordable marijuana anywhere.
A senate vote to legalise the drug that is expected in mid-November as part of an effort in the South American country to explore alternatives in the war on drugs.
The head of Uruguay’s National Drugs Board, Julio Calzada, said the government would set the price of cannabis low in the hope of pushing drug traffickers out of the market.
“The illegal market is very risky and of poor quality,” he said. “The price of marijuana from Paraguay that gets sold on the streets here is about $1 a gram, so we’re going to set the price of government-controlled cannabis at around that same price. We want to snatch the market away from the drug traffickers.”
It will take a few months after that to organise a system through which cannabis will be sold freely at pharmacies.
“The system will be in place around mid-2014,” Calzada told the Uruguayan newspaper El País. “So there’ll be time to harvest and start selling.”
Smoking cannabis has long been legal in Uruguay, but growing, carrying, buying or selling it has been punishable by prison terms. About 120,000 of the country’s 3.4 million population consume cannabis at least once a year, according to the National Drug Council. Of these, 75,000 smoke it every week and 20,000 every day.
“In reality, cannabis only costs about half a dollar a gram to produce in Uruguay,” said Juan Vaz,46, a computer programmer and veteran legalisation campaigner from the capital city, Montevideo. “So when the government says that by next year we could be buying it at $1 a gram, that sounds very reasonable.”
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