Updated 08:13 PM EDT, Wed, Oct 21, 2020

Uruguay Licenses Two Companies to Grow Public Marijuana Years After Revolutionary Law

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Uruguay just licensed two companies to grow public marijuana that will be available for purchase in pharmacies within eight months.

The news was announced on late Thursday, GlobalPost reported. The announcement comes two years after the South American country passed a revolutionary law making it the first country to "legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis," the news outlet added.

The two licensed companies, Symbiosis and ICCorp, are permitted to grow about 2 tons of pot each year, GlobalPost noted. Both companies are small startups funded by local Uruguayan and international capital, government officials said.

The plant will be cultivated near a prison in the town of Libertad, west of the capital Montevideo, GlobalPost further reported. Uruguay's Interior Ministry will protect the location.

The nation's legalization of marijuana was signed by President José Mujica and his cabinet in May 2014, The New York Times wrote. The order allows citizens and legal residents above the age of 18 to access medical pot in three ways: by growing it at home, buying it from pharmacies, and joining marijuana growing clubs.

According to local media El Pais, officials plan to sell government weed for about $1.20 a gram, which is lower than cannabis in other legalized areas such as Colorado. Last year, marijuana industry experts told GlobalPost that the cost of producing weed made Uruguay's official price estimates impractical. The government also didn't reveal how growers are capable of meeting low prices.

There's also the issue of pharmacists resigning en masse if they were ever forced to sell marijuana over the counter, the news outlet added. Current National Drug Board president Juan Andres Roballo said that the government is working with a national pharmacists organization to draft the rules for selling public marijuana.

Tjalling Erkelens, CEO of Holland-based Bedrocan BV, a big medical marijuana supplier, said Thursday's choice of small, local companies "indicated to the international cannabis industry that Uruguay is primarily interested in fostering a domestic pot-growing market, rather than providing a base for companies to grow fields of weed for export," GlobalPost reported.

Erkelens said that large international companies interested in Uruguay producing marijuana are aiming to export the pot to other countries. He added that the recent progress made Uruguay "look less attractive as a base for exporting and that this announcement reinforces the doubts larger companies might have about putting down roots in the country," the news outlet noted.

"The international companies won't be that disappointed," Erkelens said, as quoted by GlobalPost. "Uruguay hasn't had a good start."

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