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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Uruguay Marijuana Policy Update - by Theo Gantos

    Uruguay is overdue in finalizing their regulations governing their new legal marijuana market and President Mujica has asked that no details be released until they are published in a few days.

    Uruguay became the first country to legalize cannabis in defiance of international convention agreements (see Uruguay Leads the Way in Legalizing Marijuana – MMMR Jan 2014). Registered users will be allowed to grow up to six plants per family and harvest up to 480 grams per year at home or join a cultivation club that allows up to 45 members and 99 plants.

       Uruguay’s National Drug Commission head Julio Calzeda said to the Associated Press that every legal cannabis plant will be cataloged using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology tags and cloned genetic markers to control illegal production. He explained the reason for the delay was partly over sales tax revenue issues, which were not addressed when Congress passed the law in December 2013. Another reason given was that much effort and discussion has gone into keeping the original legislative intent to track plants from seeds to smokeable form. Additional reports from officials at the commission said that consumers may be limited to 10 grams per week rather than the 40 grams per month figure previously given.

    Uruguay has considerable experience with RFID technology deployment as one of the world’s largest beef and cattle exporters. Their RFID livestock program aims to have all cattle in the nation tagged to track diseases and grazing history and has already tagged millions of animals. This experience dovetails well with their efforts to regulate all aspects of legal cannabis production. Genetic cloned markers will guarantee that locally produced plants stay in the country and control imports. Government officials earlier released reports that their target price for legal marijuana in pharmacies was set at $1 per gram to discourage black market sales.

    Illinois cultivation centers also require the use of RFID tags to register plants “once a root system is visible”. Colorado requires RFID tagging of seedlings by the time they reach either 8 inches in height or planted in a 2 inch wide diameter pot, but Uruguay is the first and only authority planning to combine RFID tagging with genetic markers in an effort to discourage black market sellers. Uruguay is expected to have final production and sales regulations for legal cannabis published in the next few days.

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