Once a pioneer, always a pioneer: That certainly seems to be Uruguay’s motto. A small country in terms of landmass but a nation with big ideas and a history of making bold moves, Uruguay is the first country in Latin America to be considering the legalisation of edible cannabis-infused products, among other regulatory changes, aimed at stimulating the country’s cannabis industry.
In 2021, as the world continues to deal with the ‘new normal’ and tries to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing the diversification of the global cannabis industry; regulation changes, a permeation across continents, product innovation, and all the while getting better at identifying growth opportunities along the entire supply chain,
Countries in Latin America are not willing to let this opportunity pass. Colombia and Argentina are trying to adapt to domestic and international market demands, Ecuador and Peru are adapting to a new legal scenario, the Brazilian domestic market is growing despite some challenges, and Mexico, at last, voted on its pending cannabis law and legalised adult-use cannabis last week.
While these are the current situations in neighbouring Latin American countries, in Uruguay the cannabis discussion is more advanced, as you would probably expect for a country that legalised adult-use cannabis 8 years ago – becoming not only the first country in Latin America to do so, but also the first country in the world, in turn cementing its status as a pioneer of the global cannabis industry.
Last month, the Uruguayan government’s intentions to legalise edible non-psychoactive cannabis (CBD) products came to light. The proposed changes to current regulations would allow the production of edibles for both domestic and international sales. Exports, in particular, are a vital element of the country’s cannabis industry, with Uruguay already having exported to several countries around the world including Germany and Australia.
Other major changes would include the participation of Mutualistas, a type of collective and affordable health insurance according to Carlos Lavaca, head of the country’s new National Medicinal and Therapeutic Cannabis Program. Nicolás Martinelli, the government’s official adviser on the cannabis industry, aims to propel Uruguay to the forefront of the global industry once again, just as it did back in 2013 when adult-use cannabis was legalised.
New Commercial Opportunities
Other goals include making financial transactions easier for cannabis businesses, as well creating a hemp-related project and potentially also becoming an Industrial Free Trade Zone in the future, signalling the Uruguayan government’s clear commitment to boosting the country’s cannabis industry.
This move comes at a time when global demand for CBD and other cannabis-infused edibles are rapidly growing, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some markets in the segment are maturing. We estimate that the global over-the-counter CBD market will be worth USD$6.79 billion by 2024.
In Uruguay, there is currently no date set for the approval of the proposed regulation change for edibles, but local sources are optimistic that it could come sooner rather than later. Uruguayan companies, sources say, are ready to take on the challenge and provide the world with both high-quality medical cannabis and, hopefully soon, cannabis-infused drinks, sweets and other edible products that can both enhance the cannabis user experience and provide ample commercial opportunities to stimulate growth of the industry.