Just an hour away from Montevideo –Uruguay’s capital – sits a small marijuana farm under police protection. Currently, it houses 3,000 weed plants, but in the next few weeks, at least 1,000 more plans will be added. The farm belongs to Guillermo Delmonte – a 29-year-old who has never smoked weed. His company, International Cannabis Corporation, is one of two companies the Uruguayan government handpicked to supply the country’s pharmacies with over-the-counter recreational marijuana.
Come July, Uruguay will produce “the world’s first state-commissioned recreational marijuana,” according to The Guardian – a move designed to undercut cartels bringing weed in from Paraguay. Though anyone can grow weed, the government is hoping this move pushes people to buy it from pharmacies instead. All Uruguayans will have to do is register with the government and provide their thumbprint to prove their identity. This will ensure that each person can buy up to 40 grams of weed a month.
Delmonte’s company and Symbiosis, the other company that won the government contract, are each charged with producing more than 2 tons of marijuana. They were picked after a lengthy selection process designed to ensure that no cartels were behind bids to get contracts – so instead, they picked a weed n00b. Before getting into the cannabis biz, Delmonte worked in finance.
“Telling my wife’s parents [about the farm] was the most difficult part,” he said. “But they knew I’m not a smoker or a dealer and they saw this as a good opportunity to be part of history.”
Uruguay has hit some speed bumps along the way to providing recreational marijuana for all. First of all, not all pharmacies want to sell recreational marijuana, and most of the ones that have signed up for this program operate out of Montevideo – challenging whether this will actually be a countrywide measure.
Delmonte has also faced some challenges. The government supplied him with the marijuana plans four months late, so he missed the summer sun. So his electricity bill will be higher than he expected, and he also struggled to find the right team. “It was not so easy to find the correct people who can do this professionally, as most people who know about it smoke,” he said. “They’re like, ‘OK, I’m going to work there and I’m going to smoke all the time.’ But you can’t – the government is behind us. But nowadays we have a very good team.”
And while he doesn’t expect his weed to compete with what people are growing at home, he hopes it will be cheaper and safer to use than illegal marijuana.