Article by Vincent Bevins, Los Angeles Times
Diego Prandini is bent over in a small, brightly lit room, watering marijuana plants of all shapes and sizes. He crawls into a corner to reach some smaller specimens, labeled with names like “Ushua” and “RGB1,” all of which will be part of the next two-kilogram harvest.
“I’ve been at this for seven hours today,” he says, standing and smiling. “So my back is starting to get a little tired.”
Until recently, this job would have been illegal, and he might have worked for dangerous narcotraficantes, perhaps in hidden in nearby Paraguay. But Prandini, 37 and sporting a T-shirt and mohawk, tends his plants in a pleasant middle-class neighborhood of Uruguay’s capital, and as a break, he heads downstairs to enjoy a joint with his co-workers and watch YouTube videos.
The copious smoke they blow out is visible from the street, and next door, their shop sells pipes, marijuana seeds and smoking paraphernalia. Some Brazilian tourists wander in, asking if they can buy some finished marijuana. They can’t.
It’s not legal to buy weed on the street in Uruguay — yet — but Prandini and his colleagues are taking advantage of Latin America’s first full pot legalization project, which has been carefully and gradually rolled out as Uruguay hopes to serve as a model for its neighbors and minimize unintended consequences of the effort.