Montevideo Gold


A young man smokes marijuana during a demonstration demanding a new law on cannabis on May 8, 2013 in Montevideo, Uruguay. The regulation of marijuana trade was passed late last year. (AFP/Getty Images)

Correction appended

It will be the first government-run marijuana business in the world. And as if that isn’t enough, Uruguay’s nascent venture into pot-o-nomics has an additional twist.

The government, which legalized the marijuana trade late last year, is going to use cloned plants.

“It is likely to be a December, January start,” Uruguay President Jose Mujica said Wednesday, referring to land where he wants to plant the government’s marijuana. “We try to use what we have. It will be grown in one place, probably in an armed forces’ facility. There will probably be private producers, but under certain conditions.”

The president, who has become a cult icon because of his lax attitudes toward marijuana, told Chilean newspaper La Tercera he wants to “work with clones” and “reproduce the same genetic code.”

Mujica wants to sell it at the staggeringly low price of $1 per gram — one-eighth of what it costs at most U.S. drug dispensaries.

Though stoners have applauded the news the world over, Mujica posits his experiment is actually a shrewd method of combating drug trafficking.

Some analysts agree. “For the first time, a country has said we’ll take the profits out of the drug trade and give criminals no reason to traffic the stuff,” Sanho Tree, a drug policy expert at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, told the Post in December. “It’s a counterintuitive solution to the problem.”

Once the country’s dispensaries are up and running, pot smokers can buy as much as 40 grams every month — as long as they’re over 18 and registered with the government. Plus, if aficionados don’t want the government’s green, they can grow their own — as many as six plants in their house each year.

Still, Mujica cautioned, there are a few caveats. The country won’t export their haul. “We do not want to be producers for export or complicate the lives of our neighbors,” Mujica told La Tercera.

So don’t reach for your pipe just yet, he admonished: “Regulacion no significa viva la pepa!”

Regulation doesn’t mean let the good times roll.

This post has been corrected. Mujica is not a physician by training.

 

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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