Uruguay’s unique new marijuana industry has run into a hurdle as international anti-money laundering rules are forcing banks to close the accounts of pharmacies legally selling the drug.
Uruguayan pharmacies started selling marijuana last month under a 2013 law that made the South American country the first in the world to legalize pot all the way from production to sale.
But lenders such as Uruguayan state bank Banco Republica (BROU) now say they must abandon such businesses.
Not doing so would “cause BROU and its clients to be financially isolated,” its president Jorge Polgar was quoted as saying by El Observador newspaper.
That would “prevent it from carrying out any kind of operation with an international counterpart,” he warned.
Another major bank, Santander of Spain, said it too would close any accounts held with it by Uruguayan pharmacies selling the drug.
“As a global bank with clients in various countries, we have to observe the various norms in force in those places,” a Santander source told AFP.