Pubdate: Fri, 18 Aug 2017
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2017 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: P.O. Box 1909, Seattle, WA 98111-1909
Author: Leonardo Haberkorn, Associated Press


MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) - The legal sale of marijuana in Uruguayan
pharmacies is facing challenges as banks refuse to deal with companies
linked to the drug in order to follow international financial laws.

A government official said Friday that Uruguayan banks risk running
afoul of laws that ban receiving money tied to the drug. The official
was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In July, marijuana went up for sale at 16 pharmacies as part of a 2013
law that made Uruguay first to legalize a pot market covering the
entire chain from plants to purchase.

But one pharmacy in the capital, Montevideo, has decided not to sell
it after a warning by a local branch of Spanish bank Santander. The
bank said it has opted to remain out of this line of business.

State-owned Banco Republica, Uruguay's largest bank, also told
pot-selling pharmacies that it must close their accounts.

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Some U.S. marijuana retailers in states that have legalized sales have
encountered similar banking difficulties as the drug remains illegal
on a federal level.

Diego Olivera, secretary-general of Uruguay's National Drugs Council,
said authorities are meeting with the pharmacies to find out how many
have been warned by banks. He added that officials are looking at
possible solutions, but did not give details.

"Without doubt, in these processes of changing paradigms, they run up
against moments of difficulty," Olivera said. "We are working on

Sen. Jose Mujica, who was president when legalization passed in 2013,
has threatened "gridlock" in parliament if authorities fail to resolve
the problem for what was one the signature policy initiatives of his

Pharmacy lawyer Pablo Duran told Carve radio that the pharmacies
selling marijuana operate within the law in "an activity that is
completely regulated, licit ... and controlled."

Running a business without being able to bank is tough in Uruguay.
Among other things, the law prohibits cash or check payments for
employees and requires that salaries be paid by direct deposit.
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MAP posted-by: Matt