Gardener Joaquin Fonseca checks marijuana plants in an indoor plantation of a marijuana's smokers club on the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay July 16, 2017. Picture taken July 16, 2017. (REUTERS/ANDRES STAPFF).
September 25, 2017
Uruguay's closely-watched cannabis legalisation plan has hit a roadblock after banks in the United States announced they would no longer do business with companies that have links with the marijuana business. Uruguay's government then announced it would switch to a cash business while they hammered out other changes to their original retail plan.
In 2013, after years of debate, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalise recreational marijuana. The law was presented as a way to tackle growing drug trafficking and violence. Stringent regulations were put in place to make sure the government controls all aspects of production. Users have to register with authrorities, a fingerprint is used for purchasing, and quotas are in place to prevent users from buying in excess.
The move by US banks raises questions about the global legalisation trend. Canada introduced a bill in April that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's liberal government hopes to pass by next summer, and other countries in Latin America like Colombia and Mexico are moving forward with their own legalisation plans. US banks control vast amounts of capital and many countries are reliant on them. But individual US states don’t all agree if and how marijuana should be legalised, leading to confusion. In four states recreational use is legal, and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states plus the District of Columbia.
Some pharmacies in Uruguay were quick to say that, if their bank accounts were under threat of closure, they wouldn't hesitate to stop selling cannabis.
On Monday we'll discuss the progress of Uruguay’s legalisation plan.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Hannah Hetzer @hannahhetzer
Senior International Policy Manager, Drug Policy Alliance
Raquel Peyraube @raquelpeyraube
President, Uruguayan Society of Endocannabinology
Founder, Montevideo Cannabis Museum