Could pot-friendly Uruguay supply Canada with medicinal marijuana?

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Could pot-friendly Uruguay supply Canada with medicinal marijuana?

Could Canada’s medicinal marijuana patients soon be getting their supply from the fields of Uruguay? The South American country is poised to legalize every aspect of the pot industry and some say the country’s new position as a pot proponent could open up avenues of export.

Uruguay’s government voted to legalized pot last week in a bid to undermine illegal traffickers and the troublesome black market. According to Reuters, Uruguay will become the first country to "fully regulation marijuana from cultivation to consumption."

When the law comes into effect early next year, every citizen will be allowed to buy 40 grams per month through state-licensed pharmacies. The country of 3.3 million people will, almost overnight, become a living test case for pot advocates in the rest of the world.

"Other countries will be watching very closely to see how it plays out for Uruguay now that this is a real political option," John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, told Reuters.

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But most notably for Canada will be the sudden existence of a legal marijuana source. With Canadian laws struggling to simultaneously acknowledge pot as a legal medicinal option and identify pot growers as criminals, a solution may have just presented itself.

Canada legalized marijuana for the terminally ill in 2001, allowing them to grow and smoke their own week. But Health Canada announced changes to the system earlier this year, making it illegal for anyone to grow marijuana and turning the task of supplying medicinal pot to private companies.

There are currently more than 37,000 medicinal marijuana users in the country, and projections suggest the number will reach more than 430,000 by 2024. When the changes come into effect next April, it is expected to become a $1 billion industry.

According to Reuters:

In the transition, Canada will have a deficit of some 100,000 kg of medical marijuana that a foreign supplier could cover, says Ron Marzel, a Toronto lawyer for the Canadian cannabis industry.

...

"I am optimistic and bullish about Uruguay being able to produce low-cost, high-quality medical cannabis for export to Canada," Marzel said. "If it acts fast, it could look at placing some 20,000 kilos in Canada over the next year."

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The idea that Canada would fill its need for legal marijuana by importing it from Uruguay is not likely based in much reality, however.

For one, it would require that the Conservative government was actually searching for the apparent impending bottleneck. For another, it discounts a made-at-home solution.

The National Post reported that more than 150 applications for marijuana licenses have been submitted. If a deficit truly does need to be addressed, it is possible more applications will simply be approved.

Plus, how crazy would it be for Canada’s decision makers to citizens from growing their own medicine for free and instead pay to have it imported from South America? It just wouldn’t make sense.