The Argentine who had the first recreational marijuana license: “You have to legalize it and collect taxes”

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Fernando Saicha highlights the Uruguayan experience, where being able to buy it legally ended with drug dealing. He also runs the first cannabis radio station in Argentina.

The idea of ​​the media remains stubbornly linked to the single curative possibility of cannabis. There seem to be two types: a medical marijuana and a creepy one. Notes appear, on the one hand, about a small town where they got together to grow marijuana for medicinal use. On the other hand, we see that the Gendarmerie seized 900 kilos of marijuana that were transported in a cargo truck. Insidious question: did the police seize 900 kilos of marijuana or 900 kilos of a magical and therapeutic potion?

All governments put taboo topics on the agenda: abortion with Macri. The law of gender identity with the Kirchners. The divorce link with Alfonsín.

We repair the grow shop, those boutiques dedicated to the advice and sale of products for the cultivation of cannabis. In Palermo there are several. The mother of this chronicler, walking through the area, asks if that is where they sell “the remedy for patients with refractory epilepsy”.

Last week the debate started for the legalization, in the City, of therapeutic cannabis. Publicly, marijuana is the only remedy that activists have. There are people in a state of permanent march for cannabis. Thousands of people capable of going from Plaza de Mayo to Congress in order to demand a law that allows plants to manufacture oils. A kind of symbolic hunt, however, strengthens the discourse against the recreational market, something that seems to be making its way in the United States. In Argentina, both marijuana –therapeutic and recreational- do not breathe in a synchronized way before public opinion.

Faced with this local impediment, Fernando Saicha it is planted –the term is never more appropriate- as a reference of the cannabis culture related to pleasure. In fact, he had the world’s first federal license to produce recreational marijuana in Uruguay. Turning 50, he says he smokes because it “does good” to his mood and because it improves his “mood.” Saicha does not drink alcohol, does not consume cigarettes, does not know anything about anxiolytics. Regarding the politically correct approach that marijuana receives from the medical side, he is tolerant. “Argentina is a country very backward in the debate. Cannabis must be legalized and taxes collected. In Uruguay it is an industry, in the United States it generates more money than corn”.

Owner of a related radio (“Rock N ‘Grow, first Cannabis Radio in Latin America”), his market share is far from hippie or high-handed: he recently surrounded himself with experts to invent a cannabis harvester that nearly won a national biotech contest.

Aware of the debate on the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay, a few years ago, this photographer who studied an audiovisual career at the University of Berkeley, California, traveled to Montevideo to follow the discussions closely with a view to making a documentary.

“The whole world was forbidden cannabis. Uruguay enables it with a federal law in 2013. The tender for its production takes place in 2014. I was filming the session, but I was also a grower with 25 years of experience who had started to develop the subject in California… ”, he explains.

Of course, before going outside to study, Fernando had no idea what a marijuana plant was. I hardly knew the leaf from any Bob Marley flag. His first time was in California, 1989. Smoking was very expensive. In Argentina he had tried the typical Paraguayan pressing, but in the vicinity of the North American faculty, at the age of 17 – age of mimicking – he discovers some flowers that were sold in tiny bags measuring two centimeters by three with an “aromatic, unique content ”. Nothing to do with the stench of pressing urine that I had ever tasted in Buenos Aires.

“Forty dollars! An aroma, a unique flavor and an immediate, powerful effect. Cannabis flowers, a novelty ”. She went to live in Brazil for work reasons and one day she started walking along the beach to get flowers. I was in Guaruya, San Pablo, in 1996. “There was nothing. I called my friends at UC Berkeley, I asked for genetics and they sent me seeds by mail. “

-Are you the first to introduce flowers to Brazil?

-I suppose someone else would be doing that, I don’t think I was the only one because in Rock in Rio there were already people growing the famous camarao. Pressing is that thing that may be good or may have a roach in it. What you smoke with the pressing is stem, female, male. The camera is of better quality. For starters, it has flowers.

The Uruguayan government launched a tender for recreational cannabis for sale in pharmacies. Since 2015, Saicha and its partners have produced, packaged and sold exclusively for that kind of buyer.. Despite the legality, far from being massive, There are only 14 registered pharmacies that agree to trade cannabis. Half, in Montevideo.

“You can buy up to 40 grams per month. Since this happens, the illegal use of marijuana in Uruguay is practically non-existent. You can buy in pharmacies, become a member of a club, or plant. The marijuana drug dealing almost disappeared ”.

Signing up to buy in pharmacies is convenient: you can integrate the list of authorized customers from a kind of Easy Pay. “They sign you up, they give you a card and that’s it.” Uruguay, according to Fernando, has 42,185 people authorized to buy marijuana in pharmacies and there are 9,435 people registered for home cultivation. Additionally, a total of 5,031 are members listed in cannabis social clubs. “A club works as an association with no more than 45 members. They put money to rent the place, pay the expenses of the space and the head cultivator and the assistants.

The consumption system is similar to the pharmacy scheme: 40 grams per month. “The difference between clubs and pharmacies,” he says, “is in the varieties. Pharmacies only carry four varieties of cannabis, almost all with low THC graduations. This means that the impact is rather light, like that of a beer with a few degrees of alcohol. The clubs, on the other hand, serve to be able to choose the varieties ”.

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