MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay’s economy minister said Wednesday the government was seeking to ensure a marijuana legalization law enacted four years ago was compatible with international banking regulations.
Danilo Astori was referring to financial institutions’ moves to close the bank accounts of Uruguayan pharmacies where the drug is sold.
“We’re looking for a way to ensure a right Uruguayans have won pertaining to the consumption and distribution of this product (marijuana) is in line with international banking practices that the country cannot disregard,” Astori said in a speech at the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation in Montevideo.
Several international private banks operating in Uruguay have closed the accounts of pharmacies that sell state-produced and regulated marijuana because that drug is illegal in their home countries.
The state-run Banco de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay, the country’s largest, also has said it will close accounts linked to commercial establishments that sell cannabis.
The banking measures have led several of the 16 pharmacies authorized to sell marijuana for recreational use to get out of that line of business.
The sale of recreational marijuana at select pharmacies in Uruguay began on July 19 under a pioneering 2013 law, which made the South American country the world’s first nation to legalize the production, distribution and sale of the weed.
Sixteen pharmacies signed up to sell marijuana in 11 of the 19 provinces in Uruguay, a country with less than 3.5 million people and more than 1,000 pharmacies.