Working at a decidedly unslackerly pace, employees are racing to get ready for the opening of the latest marijuana boutique to sprout up in pot-friendly Uruguay.
About 20 such stores have opened for business in the capital, Montevideo, in the past year-and-a-half since Uruguay became the first country in the world to not only legalize marijuana, but create a regulated market for it.
“This is just the beginning. The market is wide open to everyone,” said 34-year-old Marcelo Cabrera, one of the business partners behind the latest grow shop, Tu Jardin (“Your Garden”).
The landmark marijuana law was passed in December 2013 under former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, a folksy iconoclast known for living in a rundown farmhouse and giving most of his salary to charity.
Under the law, Uruguayan citizens and residents can buy up to 40g of weed a month from pharmacies, grow it themselves at home or join cannabis clubs, where members pitch in to garden the plants together.
Before the legislation took effect in April last year, Juan Vaz planted marijuana illegally. Today, he is paid to do it and manages a local growers’ club.
“Many people don’t buy on the black market anymore. They plant at home or in a cannabis club. So part of the money that went to drug trafficking before is now going to the community, creating new jobs,” he said.
The law still leaves some gray areas.
One of them is the selling of seeds — not prohibited, but not regulated either.
That has resulted in a sort of legal limbo.
“You can import them if they were not illegally exported elsewhere,” Cannabis Studies Association (AECU) president Laura Blanco said.
Pharmacy sales, the most controversial part of the law, have yet to begin — and it is unclear whether they are set to any time soon under new Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, a cancer doctor who has openly criticized the policy.
However, that just means more business for the grow shops.
There are about 20,000 home growers in Uruguay, and 15 cannabis clubs authorized to cultivate up to 99 plants each, the AECU said.
“Business is booming. Tourists come looking for souvenirs, and locals come to buy everything you need to grow it and smoke it,” said another young weed entrepreneur, 29-year-old Enrique Tubino, co-founder of marijuana boutique Yuyo Brothers.
The first grow shop, Urugrow, has seen a keen pack of competitors emerge.
Stores like Yuyo Brothers, which started out selling marijuana paraphernalia in 2002, have dived into the do-it-yourself marijuana gardening business, too.
Beyond small business, the most ambitious investors are researching how to take advantage of the non-psychotropic elements of hemp, useful for producing biofuels, textiles, food and cosmetics.
Brazilian entrepreneur Fabio Bastos expects his first harvest in January next year and the 40 hectares he planted — half for fiber production, half for research on medicinal uses of hemp — have already sold.
Sedina, his company, was born one year ago with an investment of US$150,000 and is now valued at US$5 million, Bastos said.
He already exports hemp to China and Canada, and hopes to expand into his native Brazil.
“Everyone wants hemp, everyone wants cannabis products. We are witnessing the birth of a global weed market,” he said.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory