Uruguay starts exporting medical marijuana to Europe


The country wants to export up to 400 tons a year

Exporting medical marijuana. Being the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, Uruguay wants to go further and become the first Latin America country to export its marijuana for medical purposes.

Even though it took more than one year to reach this moment, in Nueva Helvecia the first crop is ready to be sent to Germany.

Members of the US company Fotmer, the only company licensed to export cannabis, are cutting and drying the flowers of the plant before it can be exported to Europe, Canada and Australia.

With this step Uruguay is joining the countries that are exporting medical cannabis, a rank leaded by UK. United Kingdom had got more than two thirds of the market.

According to United Nations data, the Netherlands (16.4%) and Austria (8.7%) are important exporters. But little by little more countries are trying to get involved in this market that is already legal in around 30 countries in the world.

The market is becoming very big and being Uruguay a country where you can buy cannabis in the pharmacies, it could lead this extraordinary potential.

Fotmer company wants to produce up to six tons of medical cannabis but the company expects to increase this number up to 400 tons a year in return for a $15 million investment. For this purpose, the company has created 18 greenhouses in Uruguay which occupies 30,000 square meters.

The plants are allowed to grow up to two meters (6.5 feet) high and after this moment the employees prune them and begin to separate stems from flowers. It takes between 5 and ten minutes for each employee to have each plant ready. Fotmer has 150 employees during the peak season. The company is working 24 hours a day in order to complete the process in few days.

The process is absolutely controlled because the flowers and extracts are destined for the pharmaceutical industry.

Uruguay wants to be the largest provider of medical cannabis in the world due to the country’s liberal laws.

A 2017 research by US-based Grand View Research estimates that the whole world market for medical cannabis could easily reach up to $55.8 billion by 2025.

The cannabis flowers will be sent to some of the 21 European countries that legalized medical cannabis.

During the process, each section is completely separated. The employees have to change their clothes and shoes to pass from one area to another and they have to go through a pressurized zone where doors can be opened one at a time.

After cutting each plant, they are left during six day to dry and another week to be cured. It takes two more days to pack them and have the product ready to export.

The packets weigh around 3 kilograms and are sold for between $9,000 and $21,000. In the international medical cannabis market the prices range from $3 to $7 per gram, depending on the quality.

Germany has become the first European customer in Uruguay.

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