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Uruguay will soon have a new cannabis law allowing citizens to buy, sell and grow marijuana. Meanwhile, the government will also begin to grow its own fields of marijuana, which will then be harvested, taxed and sold in neighborhood pharmacies.

But the process is time-consuming, and officials will be unable to produce mass quantities for some time. In order to fill the gap in the meantime, Uruguay’s Senator and First Lady Lucia Topolasnsky said “we will have to buy cannabis. I think that we’re going to buy it from Canada, because that’s where the best quality is.”

It’s an interesting possibility, and raises the eyebrows all around. Is it truly possible to import the necessary amounts of cannabis from Canada?

For starters, Canada doesn’t have a whole lot of marijuana on its hands at the moment. There are only about 10 companies legally producing cannabis within its borders, and they are struggling to keep up with local demand, never mind exporting to another country.

However, the Canadian law governing medical marijuana has a provision that allows export licenses to be issued to growers. Of course, the government won’t start issuing those until Canada has what it needs for itself.

Pricing will also be an issue. In order to stay competitive with the black market, Uruguay has announced that it will sell its product at $1 per gram. But Canadian cannabis is much more expensive, selling for a minimum of $7.60 a gram. Considering shipping and regulation costs, it probably doesn’t make too much sense to import from Canada. Unfortunately for Uruguay, Canada has its eye on exporting to countries with higher incomes.

Speaking of shipping, that might be harder than it sounds. Shipping marijuana is illegal under United Nations conventions on transporting narcotics. However, cannabis is already being imported to Canada from the Netherlands as a pharmaceutical. Any company in Canada hoping to export cannabis to Uruguay would need permission from both countries’ governments, as well as approval from the International Narcotics Control Board for Uruguay to import cannabis.

To further complicate shipping, the product would likely be moved via small fishing boats, which would need the cooperation of a third party in order for a fuel stop along the way. This would likely be a Caribbean island nation, because landing at a US port would almost certainly result in the seizure of the ship, and that could pose a problem for a boat that hit bad weather on the way south. But don’t worry about the quality: even newly harvested cannabis would stay fresh over a weeklong journey.

But despite the fact that there is a legal framework for the import, neither country has announced a deal to start importing or exporting cannabis. It is far more likely that Uruguayans will simply have to wait.

Uruguayan government officials are working towards an early April 2014 deadline to finalize the details of the new legislation. The entire system is expected to be established by the middle of 2014.


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