URUGUAY: Uruguay’s drug tsar says the country plans to sell legal marijuana for $1 a gram to combat drug-trafficking, according to a local newspaper.
The plan to create a government-run legal marijuana industry has passed the lower house of Congress, and Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, expects to push it through the Senate soon as part of his effort to explore alternatives in the war on drugs.
The measure would make Uruguay the first country in the world to license and enforce rules for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.
Marijuana sales should start in the second half of 2014 at a price of about $1 a gram, drug chief Julio Calzada told Uruguay’s El País, on Sunday – an eighth or less of what it costs at legal medical dispensaries in some US states.
Calzada said one gram would be enough “for one marijuana cigarette or two or three slimmer cigarettes”.
He said the idea was not to make money but to fight petty crime and wrench the market away from illegal dealers.
“The illegal market is very risky and of poor quality,” he said. The state was going to offer “a safe place to buy a quality product and on top of that, it’s going to sell it at the same price”.
In August, Calzada had estimated the price would be about $2.50 a gram. Sales would be restricted to locals, who would be able to buy up to 40g a month.
Smoking pot has long been legal in Uruguay, but growing, carrying, buying or selling it has been punishable by prison terms.
About 120,000 Uruguayans consume marijuana 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 the US, the states of Washington and Colorado have legalised marijuana and adopted rules governing its sale. Unlike Uruguay, they will tax marijuana, seeing it as a revenue source, when it goes on legal sale next year.
In Washington, the state marijuana consultant has projected legal pot might cost $13-$17 a gram. Marijuana in the medical dispensaries typically ranges from $8-$14 a gram in Washington depending on quality.