Today, Guillermo Delmonte is a CEO. His company, International Cannabis Corp, is one of two companies now legally growing cannabis for the Uruguayan government.
But for a Latin American narcotics kingpin, Guillermo Delmonte keeps it low key.
It may be hard to believe, but the 29-year-old Uruguayan has never smoked cannabis in his life. He’s never smoked a cigarette either, and he barely drinks.
When asked if he has any vices, he has to pause to think. “I’m addicted to orange juice. Perhaps,” he eventually says with a bemused laugh.
Delmonte’s company has 3,000 marijuana plants growing under lights and watched by constant police guard. International Cannabis Corp is expecting to add at least a thousand more plants in coming weeks. They will also install a state-of-the-art Spanish greenhouse to help them grow.
With all this activity, Delmonte’s company is under serious scrutiny. That’s because starting in July, the cannabis they produce will be trucked around the country and sold in pharmacies as the world’s first state-commissioned recreational marijuana.
Any Uruguayan will be able to buy up to 40 gram a month for around $1 a gram. The exact price is still to be decided. To do this, Uruguayans only need to join a government register and give a thumbprint to prove their identity.
Under Uruguayan law, anyone over 18 is allowed to grow cannabis at home or join a club to grow it for them. But the government hoped most people would go for the pharmacy option.
It initially intended to select five companies to grow 2,000 kilograms a year each, enough for almost 21,000 people, or about 0.6% of the population.
Ultimately, the government selected Delmonte’s company and one other firm, Symbiosis.
Delmonte previously worked in the financial industry, but got into cannabis in December 2013 after Uruguay basically legalized the drug. The president at the time, Jose Mujica, was known for his frugal lifestyle and for being a former guerrilla fighter. He said the move was a way to tackle cartels bringing cannabis into the country from Paraguay.
“Telling my wife’s parents was the most difficult part,” Delmonte says when asked if he had any problems moving away from finance. “But they knew I’m not a smoker or a dealer and they saw this as a good opportunity to be part of history.”