Less than a year after it began being sold to registered buyers in pharmacies, 54 percent of marijuana users in Uruguay access the drug through legal avenues, a new report has revealed.
However, the authors of the report – entitled “Regulated market of cannabis” – said the figure was number was insufficient and did not solely include those registered. They also revealed that the firms producing the drug for the state were having problems meeting demand.
“Before the first year of implementation [arrives], the regulated market reaches 54 percent of marijuana users,” concluded a report from the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), which clarified that the percentage includes consumers registered with the state and others that are not.
In Uruguay, there are three ways to legally access cannabis: growing at home (“self-cultivation”), growing via cooperatives or clubs, and the purchase in pharmacies of up to 40 grams per month, per user.
Almost 24,000 people are registered to buy the drug in Uruguay, but the report concluded that far more people than those registered consume marijuana.
According to the study, a home-grower or member of a cannabis club “provides two other people … while people who buy in a pharmacy share with only one more person.” The government estimates that 147,000 people consume marijuana in Uruguay, yet the study found that only 23 percent of that figure is registered as a grower, member of a club or buyer.
The legalisation of marijuana was first approved by Parliament in 2013, under the government led by José “Pepe” Mujica. Sales to the customer began in July last year, and the two companies that produce marijuana for the state – which channels the drug to the distribution network – are failing to meet demand, the study indicated.
The number of people registered to buy marijuana produced under state control and sold in pharmacies is on track to quintuple in nine months from the 4,900 initially registered, and production is still not enough to fill the demand. Since the first package was sold in July last year, the state has channelled 752kg of marijuana through pharmacies.
‘State marijuana’ is produced some 50 km west of Montevideo, under heavy surveillance by the authorities.
Consumers can purchase four varieties of drug in pharmacies, which are sold in sealed packages of five grammes. Roughly, the drug costs around US$1.40 a gram.