Uruguayan flags and banners representing the Broad Front ruling political party are displayed for sale in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Oct. 24, 2014. (Natacha Pisarenko, The Associated Press)

Uruguay drug czar: Medical pot will cost more than recreational cannabis

Uruguay is taking its time with the implementation of its legal, regulated recreational cannabis sales — something that has been delayed a number of times by the nation’s government. But now there’s a new twist to the South American country’s plan, one that will surprise legalization advocates and anti-pot opposition alike.

In Uruguay, medical marijuana will cost more than recreational pot, according to multiple sources. Drug czar Julio Calzada told El Observador about the unusual price structure, and a National Drug Council spokesman confirmed the news to The Global Post.

One reason that kind of pricing comes off as odd: The government would be charging more for medicine than they would drugs meant for recreational use, indicating an unusual emphasis. Another reason: It goes against everything the legalization movement has seen in the U.S., where medical prices are often half of their recreational counterparts in Colorado and Washington shops.

The reason, according to The Global Post:

Medical marijuana will be grown separately from the recreational type, by different companies. It will likely have higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the plant’s chemical compound that makes users high, and will be grown under stricter controls than pot grown purely for fun.

The Global Post spoke with Montevideo-based Diego Canepa, president of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, about the supposed pricing. He said it’s too early to tell what the country will be charging for medical or recreational marijuana.

“I don’t know how anyone can say that right now,” Canepa told the paper. “It’s impossible to know.”

Remember when former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, who first pursued the regulated sale of cannabis, called out the medical marijuana system in Colorado? “It’s a complete fiction what they do in Colorado,” he told the AP in May 2014.

While the possession of cannabis has been federally legal in Uruguay since 1974, the government’s recent effort to regulate the sale of recreational marijuana — a feat that is still in the somewhat distant future — has thrust the quiet, modest country of 3.3 million into the international limelight.