In Episode #7, we are joined from Montevideo by attorney Dr. Rodolfo Perdomo, of Perdomo Abogados, to discuss Uruguay’s cannabis industry. We cover:

  • Former President José “Pepe” Mujica’s critical role in making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis.
  • The current legal framework for cannabis in Uruguay—and why there is no going back for the country when it comes to cannabis.
  • Uruguay’s aspirations to become a world hub for cannabis research and production, and its new related legislation.
  • Why Uruguay is a welcoming and attractive destination for foreign investors, and not just those in the cannabis sector.
  • At least one important thing you should know about Uruguay, aside from cannabis! (Hint: 1930 and 1950).
  • Reading recommendations from:

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This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort 0:08
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other, developing and developed nations wax and wane their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly, requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global lawn business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort

Jonathan Bench 0:34
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.

Fred Rocafort 0:58
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us via email and social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.

In any workplace, the soccer fans are sure to be well acquainted with Uruguay. In addition to belonging to the very select club of countries who have won the World Cup twice. a steady crop of new Uruguayan superstars means the Oriental Republic’s name comes up often in chats between football eddowes. But football fans are not the only group that views Uruguay with interest, cannabis lawyers and business people do as well, due in large part to the fact that the country was the first in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. It was under the leadership of legendary president Pepe Mujica. In 2003, Uruguay enacted law 19,172, which regulates the production, marketing and consumption of cannabis While promoting information education and prevention of cannabis use, as the bill was debated in the Uruguayan parliament, President Mujica stated that Uruguay wished to make a contribution to humanity and help steer Latin America away from more confrontational approaches to drugs. with us here today to discuss what has happened in the intervening years is Rodolfo Perdomo, a Uruguayan attorney who specializes in criminal, labor, and administrative law. A graduate of the University of the Republic, Rodolfo has served as an adviser to the Ministry of Energy Industry and mining, the city of Montevideo, Uruguay’s parliament, and even the country’s presidency. Welcome Rodolfo.

Rodolfo Perdomo 2:41
Thank you very much Fred it’s a pleasure to be here with you guys. Um, thank you very much for the invitation

Jonathan Bench 2:47
Rodolfo, We’re very happy to have you with us, and especially to talk about international cannabis. It’s as I was learning more about Uruguay’s experience and roll in really getting global cannabis started. I was absolutely fascinated. And I’m excited to learn more from you. Since you’ve been on the ground in Uruguay. So in your view was a little guy’s emergence as a cannabis pioneer, mostly a reflection of President Mujica’s vision, or did other factors play a role as well?

Rodolfo Perdomo 3:17
Well, Jonathan, I think we definitely owe that to a larger extent, at least to former president Pepe Mujica and the gracious and determination he had. Beyond up that there were indeed other factors that influence his decision, for instance, various organizations in favor of legalization have always tried to spread the benefits that such legalization could bring. And at the same time, it is important to mention that political party of President Mujica left wing party known as Frente Amplio also provided a strong support for decision, but it wasn’t easy at all to take and implement that decision. For instance, at the time of passing the law in 2013, about two thirds of the Uruguayan elation were against the legalization of cannabis. And just remember that the government party had about 55% of support in the elections. In other words, even the voters of Frente Amplio the government, the party of the government were not in total agreement with approving the law. That’s why I believe that the vision and courage of President Mujica in pushing the law was very important. And ultimately, it was a great decision, which helped I think, to reduce violence associated with drug trafficking, and indeed promote health in cannabis users. And there are perspective of risks and damages and not they confront the confrontational one and also help to control the quality And the potency of the cannabis consumed of the population. And last but not least, of course, it opened up enormous opportunity for investment in Uruguay. And then your way of international commercial insertion for the country.

Fred Rocafort 5:13
Rodolfo, in general terms, what is the legal situation of cannabis today in Uruguay, we, as we discussed in the introduction, and as you just mentioned, we talk about cannabis having been legalized in the country. But are there any important restrictions that we should keep in mind when when we talk about this legal regime?

Rodolfo Perdomo 5:35
Well, that there are some there are some i think it’s it’s it’s fair to say that in general terms, there are still some legal aspects to complete and improve regarding cannabis. Certainly here in Uruguay, it is legal to plant and harvest cannabis and hemp Of course, as long as the proper license is sustained is obtained from the respective source. This industrialization or extraction of cannabis and hemp in your work is also legal with of course the respective license in and also it is possible to have research project regarding to cannabis well, but there are yes some bureaucratic and administrative obstacles regarding the possibility of sale and export of cannabis, which have to do mainly with the certification of the respective drying process of the hemp or cannabis. But it sounds like companies of the cannabis sector are actively working with the with the press and government to obtain the legal patients that the industry requires. And there is right willingness from the government to streamline these processes and of course, to support the candidates industry in I think that that good times are coming for the cannabis business in Uruguay And I also believe that Uruguay has all the conditions to become a world power in the production of cannabis, its derivatives and varieties. And also to add a lot of value to the industry in the sense.

Jonathan Bench 7:18
I spent a good amount of my time consulting with companies and individuals who are investing in cannabis businesses. So I get a lot of questions on foreign direct investment to the US. And I also review investment documents for people who are investing outside the US in foreign markets. And so I’m very interested in knowing more about opportunities that exist in Uruguay for cannabis businesses from other countries such as the US.

Rodolfo Perdomo 7:46
Okay, well, there are there are plenty there are plenty of opportunities here and you I definitely your way has been a country of immigrants and that’s why I think is a very friendly country. with foreigners, and of course also with investors. First of all, it is natural to say that Uruguay is a country that grants great great tax benefits and investment conditions to those who wish to know so well, we are a small country nestled between two Cheyenne or at least very large ones like Brazil and Argentina. So historically, we have needed foreign investment to be able to grow. And of course, that is increased in a globalized world, like like the one we’re living. Additionally, Uruguay has, I think, enormous economic and political stability unique in the region. And I say, in all of Latin America. Ah, we also have a population with a higher level of qualification in general terms that being said in this Specific sector of cannabis business Uruguay has two great natural advantages, I think. And first of all, great and agile regulation, which eases investment in cannabis business. And also we have a great and long, enormous agricultural tradition with probably one of the best soils of the world. That’s why I think that we are a perfect country to receive an investment in cannabis. And I believe that this industry gave Uruguay a very important international insertion in the coming years. And the whole industry is betting along with the government to that.

Fred Rocafort 9:52
You mentioned that when cannabis was was legalized, there was considerable opposition to it. This move. Could you say that in the years since then the support for this legalization has increased? related to that, Is there a risk that at some point in the future, there could be a change in public support then that perhaps the current environment could become more restrictive? Regarding cannabis?

Rodolfo Perdomo 10:25
Yes, that’s a that’s a very good question. Yes, effectively, the indeed the support that the law had when it was proposed, discussed and approved, was very low. Around two thirds of you weigh of your weigh ins were against it, but from their own the population has seen that nothing bad has happened with the law. But on the contrary, it has had positive effects in general terms in addition to opening of course and new industry for the country. For instance, the latest surveys that have been known on the matter reveal that this person does or disapproval has been constantly decreasing and would be around 40%. Now, while already for instance, in 2018, and for the first time that percentage of this approval of the law was slightly exceeded by the percentage of approval of the law, which is quite important regarding regarding if there is risk of moving backwards, no, not at all, not at all, not at all. In fact, this year, there has been a change of government, your your wife and the incoming government is from our political tendency as opposed to the former one which has been going through governance government in the 15 and the last 15 uninterrupted years and nothing has happened by the Institute the government the income government has already expressed its interest in supporting the cannabis industry? But there’s even more. There’s one fact that is highly illustrative I think, two cannabis regulated laws were passed at the end of December last year below for the promotion of cannabis research and America anthropologic cannabis law, and both laws were voted by all of the Uruguayan and political parties. In other words, I will say that supporting the development of the cannabis industry in all its forms Uruguay is a state policy that transcends political parties that way I think there’s no risk at all all moving backwards.

Jonathan Bench 12:46
Can we talk for a minute about Uruguay generally? I love to learn more about the of your darling industries, companies And what you know foreign companies looking Uruguay’s potential market looking for manufacturing base maybe or looking for partners. What should what should foreign businesses keep in mind when they are looking to South America?

Rodolfo Perdomo 13:12
Well, that’s a great, that’s a great question. Also, as I said, Uruguay is an extremely safe, and economically predictable country to invest in and due to the characteristics of its market within a medium per capita income. But in a country with 3.5 million in inhabitants, Uruguay is usually a very important gateway to Latin America. Secondly and it’s the safe reliable with initially low levels of corruption for the Latin American average, and does not require large investment to enter. In turn, it provides a significant tax benefits for the investment and in fact, the present government has announced that it will deepen these benefits in the very next future. Besides that, besides that, I like to say that I always like to say that Uruguay are our oil is our soil. Well, this may not be the best time to use that analogy, but probably in the near future, it will be, but what I mean is that Uruguay offers great investment facilities, you know, the business related to the agro industrial sector, naturally real estate is usually a good investment. Just to give an example, the average price of a hectare of Uruguayan field has increased tenfold in the last 15 years. Therefore, anyone who has made an investment in this regard will surely feel very satisfied. And finally and this this is really related with the Uruguayan situation For the next years, uruguay is going to need a very important investment in infrastructure and housing in the coming years and the tax benefits they also the government also has said will be granted to whoever does the investment. So that will be an important investment area to consider as well. And I cannot fail to mention that logically in the next year I think Uruguayan economy like probably the rest of the world is going to face significant financial needs, which is why many established companies very profitable and serious one could offer investment opportunities that could certainly give great returns in the very near future. Once well situations stabilizes in some some way.

Fred Rocafort 15:58
Rodolfo this has been a A fascinating conversation and we could we could certainly go on for for much longer and I do hope that we are able to have another conversation before too long. However before before we go, I’d like to ask you about what you are reading or listening to at the moment. I think our listeners in addition to the content that you can provide here, during the the podcast regarding this issue I think that there is also an interest in knowing what people like yourself People who are doing interesting work and other in other countries are reading and digesting. So if you wouldn’t mind if you could share with us some of what you’re you’re reading these days.

Rodolfo Perdomo 16:53

Well, thank you very much for your words Fred been a fascinating conversation also, I think and I hope to have discussion recession in the near future whenever you want. It’s been a real pleasure. And well, nowadays I’m reading Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry. From Yuval Noah Harari, the well known author, and more than author mainly thinker. And well, regarding to that, I must admit that while I’m a big fan of history, I knew very little about this particular material. Honestly, I choose it because simply because I had at the very moment I read Sapiens which is widely known.The book from Harari I said to myself, you have to read everything this guy writes. And so I did it. I read Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and really loved both of them. And this book I’m reading is totally different. It is precise in detail historical embassyation, but it makes you think how very specific and limited operations and almost with a minimal minimum cost cost can have enormous effects even in the course of history. As you can see, as a Uruguayan I like to think that with limited resources with imagination and for an effort you can do right things

Fred Rocafort 18:25
you know to load for us I was getting ready for for the for the podcast, I actually considered recommending an article or sorry, another podcast I should say, a podcast interview with Harari. In the end, I chose something different. But I cannot lose this opportunity to say that I’m also a very big fan of Harari. And I was, you know, almost by, by pure chance a few years ago. I was able to take one of his courses online. This was right before he published Sapiens when he was still unknown. So so I’m, I’m like one of those guys who, you know, he listens, you know, I listened to the band before they became very big. But definitely when it comes to Harari, it was a wonderful opportunity because basically, I was able to listen to I mean, the course was really on the same topics covered in Sapiens. But it wasn’t that format, as you know, it was a it was a university level course basically. So he could go into into quite a bit of detail and of course, you’re hearing the guy’s voice, you’re you’re seeing his expressions, I think. I think you put it, you put it perfectly. I mean more than a more than a historian he he really is a thinker. He has incredible insight when it comes to a lot of things. I agree with you completely you it’s important to read everything that the guy writes even the or, you know, not just what he writes, but also his interviews, you know? Because there is really so much so much wisdom there. So thank you for that. Jonathan, what about you?

Jonathan Bench 20:18
I’m going non traditional again, because I’m finding the pace of one podcast a week, a bit strenuous to keep up with one book a week, right? So this is a it’s a recommendation from YouTube. I don’t know if you know this, Fred, but I have been a student of South Korean martial arts now for about six months. I’m learning how Kido with my kids, and so I’ve been exploring more other kinds of martial arts. So I happened across this YouTube video about a Muay Thai fighter. It’s called this so if people who are looking for it need to look for the greatest underdog story in Muay Thai, Yoddecha Sityodtong and it’s it’s only about 20 minutes long. It’s A great documentary about his experience. He grew up in a large family, but was physically abused by his father. And so he left home when he was seven years old, and found his way on the streets and eventually found his way to an Academy where he was able to study Muay Thai. And he was very focused on you know, providing a home for his mother, reconnecting with his family after many years when they thought he was dead. And then, you know, he wanted to fight because he wanted to make money and so he was willing to fight and fight and fight and he has some fun highlights from some of his fights and, and so as someone who’s an aspiring martial artist, I really appreciated the perspective I got on someone who was so, so driven to, to push himself and I like to push myself physically as well as mentally so I like the connection of of seeing what other people can do with their bodies. I think YouTube is a great is a great outlet for that I love. I love seeing what the amazing things that people can do. So highly recommend it’s only about 20-22 minute video. So quick watch, but certainly very inspiring.

Fred Rocafort 22:06
Well, for me, um, I have to admit, Jonathan, I also struggle with the pace. So often my recommendations are really second reads of things that I’ve read before. And along those lines. One of my friends recommended a New Yorker article recently by Evan Osnos, who’s a great writer, and the particular article that that that I read recently, it’s about US politics. It’s really good. But that’s not the recommendation that I that I want to make, although it’s a great article, I actually want to dig back into the Evan Osnos archives he used to write extensively about China. I think he was actually based in China for For a while, and one of the one of the pieces that he wrote that stands out to me is is called or titled The Grand Tour. And if you google Evan Osnos, the grand tour, you’ll you’ll find it. But just in case it was published on April 11 2011, so it’s actually almost almost 10 years old at this point, but it’s basically what he did. He actually joined a tour group, a Chinese tour group as they toured Europe and sort of wrote about the experience and what what that revealed about views of the world, commonly held in China, it’s a fun read. So that the Grand Tour and a little bit like with Harare, pretty much anything that Osnos has written will, will will be sure to please so so that’s my recommendation. I guess it’s time to thank Rodolfo for once again, fascinating conversation again, we we really do look forward to to having you on the podcast again soon.

Rodolfo Perdomo 24:25
Sure, sure. On the contrary, thank you guys and I think you also your recommendations and must say Fred I envy you with all my heart for getting the chance to be in the chorus of Harari, and it must have been a great a great, a great course And I will I will take your recommendations of reading on on YouTube also, and it seems quite quite inspiring and interesting recommendations.

Jonathan Bench 24:57
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward Connecting with you on social media to continue to discuss developments in global law and business. and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.

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