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Big pharma companies look to Uruguay for legal cannabis

Uruguay’s new marijuana laws have caught the attention of foreign drug companies hoping to import product for medical purposes.

Businesses and laboratories from Canada, Israel and Chile have recently contacted Uruguay’s National Drug Board regarding the country’s new policies, reports local newspaper El Observador.

Canadian companies, expecting a spike in demand under new medical marijuana regulations, have expressed interest in purchasing cannabis from Uruguay directly.

But Uruguay officials have yet to set export policies and say the domestic market is their current priority.

Presidential aide Diego Canepa said foreign interest was unexpected, but acknowledged that Uruguay could become a hub in “a highly competitive area.”

Likewise, local firms are reportedly exploring the potential to manufacture cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, a market that has so far been dominated by a single company in the UK.

Under a bill that was signed into law last month by President Jose Mujica, Uruguayan lawmakers have until April 9 to finalize regulations for the legal production and sale of marijuana.

The National Drug Board says it expects local sales to begin in September.

January 2014