Uruguay Wants Tourists to Start Rolling Up

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Uruguay’s progressive government has made the decision to expand its legal cannabis distribution to tourists. So far, tourists have not been allowed to access cannabis legally in the small South American country. However, this will change soon, perhaps in the first half of 2022.

Tourists have been forced to buy on the black market, which commonly means asking a local to purchase cannabis legally from the pharmacies that are licensed to sell to willing Uruguayan citizens who then illegally onsell to the tourists.

The secretary general of the National Secretariat of Drugs (SND), Daniel Radío, is the main force behind the Uruguayan project to sell cannabis for tourists, identifies this as problematic and has a solution.

He is also the president of the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA). Although reluctant to provide details he admitted that he would like to take the next step in Uruguay’s world-leading legal cannabis market “as soon as possible, to begin testing what will unfold”.

The Uruguayan government has acknowledged that the Regulation 19,172 (for the regulation and control of cannabis) presents a “basic inequality”. The law passed on December 20, 2013 by then-President José Mujica allows access to cannabis only to Uruguayan citizens and resident foreigners.

“I think it’s going to seem like a no-brainer, in the future people travelling to another country can have a glass of wine or likewise smoke cannabis if they want,” Radío explained. “The current exclusion of tourists is a remnant of prohibitionism,” says Radío, with bad results. Tourists can be arrested by police or endangered by bad actors operating in the illegal market when they currently seek out illegal cannabis.

“With the War on Drugs come the problems of pain, death, illness, organized crime, settling of scores, hitmen,” says the government official.

The past was the “century of prohibitionism” and the abject failure of the war on drugs. Radio emphasizes that neither the SND nor IRCCA seeks to promote the use of marijuana.

He even says that he does not like to use the term cannabis tourism adding that “when people come to Uruguay to have a wine, nobody says that they are doing alcohol tourism.”

Uruguay Wants Tourists

Remo Monzeglio, undersecretary of Tourism and also a member of the National Drug Board, agrees with that point and anticipates that they will not “promote” cannabis tourism, although he supports the idea of selling cannabis to tourists, saying “we should think about a universalization of the consumption” of cannabis.

They would do so under the premise that “anyone within the national territory, whether foreign or not, should have the same possibilities of accessing cannabis, under the same conditions as an Uruguayan.” Radío understands that the current law must be modified.

The existing regulation establishes that you must be over 18 years old, have legal or natural Uruguayan citizenship, or be able to prove permanent residence in the country. Several options are on the table to expand access to cannabis, both for tourists and Uruguayans. Asked about the date on which cannabis would begin to be sold to tourists, Radío answers:

“I don’t know, but we are making progress.” One option for the authorization of tourists would be to implement “some type of temporary registration that lapses when the tourist leaves the country,” says Radío.

Likely legally accessible cannabis will provide foreigners with one more reason to flock to the picturesque Latin American country in 2022.

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