In July, Uruguay become the first country in the world to fully legalize recreational marijuana sales, and pharmacies, or farmacias, have had difficulties keeping up with demand as well as with international laws.
Pharmacies and officials in Uruguay had to become acquainted with the U.S.’s Patriot Act, according to The New York Times. American banks, like Bank of America, said they won’t do business with Uruguayan banks that do business with those providing services to the country’s legal marijuana industry because the Patriot Act says that a U.S. financial institution can’t do business with businesses selling controlled substances.
Pharmacies are the only establishments licensed to sell marijuana in Uruguay and they require banking services. Financial institutions in Uruguay may think it’s more important to stay in good-standing with American financial institutions, so banking has become a major problem in Uruguay.
This would affect about 15 pharmacies throughout Uruguay. Roughly 20 pharmacies decided to wait to sell marijuana and are standing by to see what happens with the banking concerns.
President Vazquez’s administration is working on a solution for this huge hiccup. He said, “We can’t hold out false hope.”
Pablo Duran from the Center of Pharmacies in Uruguay said, “There probably isn’t a trade in Uruguay today that is more controlled than cannabis sales.”
Hanna Hetzer of Drug Policy Alliance said, “It is ironic that laws aimed at fighting drug trafficking and money laundering have created a roadblock for a system that intends to do just that. Uruguay is creating a legal market that displaces the illicit marijuana market.”
Uruguayan pharmacist Gabriel Bachini hasn’t heard anything from his bank, but said, “The pharmacy has been around for 30 years. I’d just stop until this issue with the United States is resolved.”
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