First of all, let’s get it straight. There are no sales of cannabis to visitors to Uruguay. To be able to buy weed, you need to be Uruguayan or a resident. So no, Uruguay is not the next Amsterdam. There are no brown cafes. But all is not lost, Uruguayans are super-friendly about offering their home-grown. So read on for more about the legal situation including how it affects travellers.
Buying weed in Uruguay
Uruguayan citizens and registered residents living here for at least two years are able to buy up to 40g of marijuana per month from the pharmacy.
Customers need to register at the post office with the information being fed to a central database. Anyone consuming their limit will be flagged for treatment or to see if they are selling their stash (which will be illegal).
Marijuana finally went on sale in July 2017, four years after the landmark legislation was approved.
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But say you are a visitor to Uruguay and someone offers you a joint or some marijuana as a gift – it’s yours for the smoking!
Personal use of cannabis has been decriminalised in Uruguay as far back as 1974. What is illegal is selling.
If you are wondering, Uruguay’s marijuana laws regarding public consumption are similar to the tobacco laws.
Over 18s can smoke pot anywhere other than a public building or enclosed place of work. So you can’t smoke inside a cafe or restaurant (a place of work for the wait staff) but you can smoke at the outdoor tables.
Growing your own
To be able to grow your own marijuana in Uruguay, first you have to register – at the post office.
I LOVE this. If you want to take the drama out of marijuana, pass this law. Don’t ask growers to register with the police. No, make it the good old homespun postal service. So Uruguayan.
Then any household can grow up to 6 plants*. Groups of between fifteen and 45 people can join together to form a “Club de Cannabis” and grow up to 99 plants*.
Registering to grow
Of course people are worried about the privacy issues around this central database. How can you be sure if the information will not be used by other government departments? This has turned off a fair few people from registering as growers already.
However I was really surprised when the law first came into effect a spoof video was filmed where real people were lured into a pharmacy in Parque Rodó (love the rasta chemist) under the pretence that a marijuana sales pilot was underway. On the video, you see people happily providing fingerprints and having their photo taken to get registered.
Is Uruguayan pot super cheap?
Licensed pharmacies are selling the drug for just over 1 USD a gramme –which is a tenth of what the same quantity would cost in the US.
* female, in flower
More on Marijuana
- Montevideo’s new cannabis museum
- Find out more about Uruguay’s enlightened political history where drugs and alcohol are concerned
This article has benefited from the help of Rosina at AECU, the Uruguayan Association for Cannabis Studies in Parque Rodó, Montevideo.
[This article was first published November 24 2014 and last updated at the date above]