MONTEVIDEO - Two companies got a license from the Uruguayan government to cultivate marijuana, under state control, which will be sold in pharmacies thanks to a 2013 law which de-criminalizes the production and sale of cannabis, the country's National Drug Board said Thursday.
The board president Juan Andres Roballo said in a press conference it was a "fundamental step" in the implementation of the law, whose main objectives are to regulate consumption and fight against drug-trafficking and organized crime.
Until now, domestic cultivators and cannabis club organizers have been the only ones who have been able to benefit from the relaxed drug law in the country, with nearly 3,000 legal users, according to official sources.
A total 22 companies sent their proposals to produce and distribute cannabis, however only Simbiosis and Icorp were selected to begin production, initially with a cap of two tonnes per year.
Once the paperwork is completed, the companies will be allocated a state-owned land, in San Jose department (south-west), to begin cultivation, and will take another eight months before marijuana is sold at pharmacies, at an expected price of a little over a dollar per gram.
The plantations will have security provided by the Interior Ministry, besides the private ones of the companies.
The state will begin campaigns on the health risks associated with (marijuana) consumption and also increase taxes on its cultivation for personal use, Roballo said.
Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis's president Augusto Vitale said they are working with the pharmacies that will sell the marijuana, and have already agreed upon 11 basic points regarding conditions related to distribution and security.
The general public will be able to access the substance after completing the required legal registrations, and can access up to 40 grams (1.41 ounces) a month or 10 grams (0.35 ounce) per week.
The law to de-criminalize the production and sale of marijuana was approved by the full Congress on Dec. 10, 2013, and the regulations were signed into law by then-President Jose Mujica, the promoter of the initiative, in May 2014.