Good news, Uruguayan potheads -- your weed habit is about to get a whole lot cheaper.
Uruguay's lower house passed an unprecedented bill last week that legalizes marijuana and regulates the production, distribution, and sale of weed for adult consumers. El Pais now reports via Univision that the bill fixes the price of marijuana around $2.50 per gram. The bill is up for vote in the Senate, where it is expected to be passed, and finally signed into law by President José Mujica, a longtime supporter of drug reform.
The debate surrounding the bill is nothing new: critics point to potential health and welfare consequences, while supporters hail the attempt to pragmatically address the widespread use of marijuana and the systemic failures of the global war on drugs. And as The Economist points out, countries like Portugal and the Netherlands have significantly decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of pot.
What sets Uruguay's bill apart, however, is that it provides for government control over the entire marijuana industry, from cultivation to consumption. Individual citizens, cooperatives, and private companies can grow a specified amount of weed each month, though it may only be sold to consumers by state-run pharmacies. Purchasers will have to register with the state and will be limited to 40 grams per month.
Such regulations could deter Uruguay's 120,000 or so marijuana users from leaving the black market, which is where the price point comes into play. Foreign Policy's Park MacDougald notes that the government has two tools at its disposal to lure customers into the legal market it seeks to create: affordability and quality control. While InSight Crime reports that the current cost of pot varies by region and can reach up to about $5 per gram, Julio Calzada, Uruguay's drug czar, told El Pais that the proposed fixed price of $2.50 per gram is on par with the going underground rates, the hope being that the competitive pricing will attract users to the legal market without providing a profit incentive for resale in the black market.
Furthermore, the bill includes strict guidelines for cultivating the cannabis plant that would eliminate common practices used by drug traffickers to alter the purity and potency of the drug. Thus, as MacDougald writes, "The legal cannabis ... will be the narcotic equivalent of artisanal goat cheese -- fresh and local."
Craft cannabis -- coming soon to a Uruguayan pharmacy near you.