“This is an adjustment to fix a contradiction in Uruguayan law where use is legal but access isn’t,” Hetzer said. So in that sense, the country’s giant leap is more of a baby step. The consumer’s relationship with weed won’t change much, but the country will collect taxes when it is legally sold in places like pharmacies. But it also means that Uruguay’s previous experiment with marijuana liberalization paved the way for full legalization of marijuana sales. That incremental approach is why Hetzer, and others, hope the country will signal a shift across the continent and then the world.
“There’s so much interest in what Uruguay is doing, because there’s so much awareness that our current approach isn’t working,” Hetzer said. “If Uruguay does this well, which I’m confident it will, there will be other countries that follow suit soon.”