Uruguay made history last month by becoming the first country in the world to legalize the sale and purchase of recreational marijuana. Former Uruguayan President José Mujica was a champion for legalizing marijuana, which initially passed during his presidency. His rationale for legalization was that it would drive drug dealers out of business by introducing serious competition, according to The New York Times. Now that marijuana is legal for recreational use, Uruguayan politicians believe it will cut down on incarceration and ease the burden on the poorest in the country, who are the ones most often get caught in the drug trade.
However, it is now pharmacies that are being penalized for selling marijuana. Even though it is legal in Uruguay to sell marijuana, accepting drug money is still in violation of international banking regulations. According to a report by the Associated Press, the country’s banks, including Uruguay’s largest bank, Banco Republica, have warned pharmacies in the South American country that if they decide to sell marijuana, their accounts will be closed. As a result, the nation’s leading pharmacy has chosen not to sell marijuana to avoid issues.
“Without a doubt, in these processes of changing paradigms, they run up against moments of difficulty,” Diego Olivera, secretary-general of Uruguay’s National Drugs Council, told AP. “We are working on alternatives.”
Not only does receiving money from these pharmacies violate international banking regulations, not having a bank account is another burden on the pharmacies. AP reports that Uruguayan law dictates that employers can’t pay employees with cash or checks. Instead, companies are required to pay employee salaries via direct deposit.
Mujica, who is now a senator, is promising gridlock if there is no resolution to the problems facing his administration’s initiatives.
Read more about what is happening with Uruguay and their legal marijuana market here.