More than 100 bidders want to grow Uruguay pot

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Photo - A shopper looks at a T-shirt decorated with a marijuana leaf and the word " Mujicannabis," a combination of the president's last name "Mujica" and cannabis, at a head shop in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Uruguay's President Jose Mujica is set to sign a law creating the country's legal marijuana market,making Uruguay the first country in the world to create a nationwide market regulating the cultivation, sale and use of legal marijuana. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
A shopper looks at a T-shirt decorated with a marijuana leaf and the word " Mujicannabis," a combination of the president's last name "Mujica" and cannabis, at a head shop in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Uruguay's President Jose Mujica is set to sign a law creating the country's legal marijuana market,making Uruguay the first country in the world to create a nationwide market regulating the cultivation, sale and use of legal marijuana. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — More than 100 businesses are hoping to compete for the right to grow the marijuana that Uruguay's government will sell in its newly legalized pot market, the country's drug czar said Thursday.

Drug secretary Julio Calzada told The Associated Press that the government can satisfy demand in the legal pot market it's launching this year by licensing two to six growers to cultivate the plants on plots no larger than 5 acres (2 hectares).

Successful bidders will have to identify everyone involved in their businesses, document the source of their financing and be cleared by Uruguay's anti-money laundering agency. These controls are needed to keep out organized crime, Calzada said.

"The big worry of the whole world is that those who produce marijuana illegally in Paraguay move in here and produce marijuana covered by Uruguayan law," he said.

Days earlier, President Jose Mujica said he, too, was worried that drug traffickers would try to move in and influence the campaign to choose his successor in October.

"I'm not sure that the marijuana (apparatus) isn't participating in electoral campaigns," he told the AP last week. "We are taking on well financed adversaries and I'm not sure that this isn't happening. I have my doubts."

Calzada rejected criticism from opponents of the governing Broad Front coalition that the legalization law did not include a mechanism to tax marijuana in the same way that tobacco and alcohol are taxed.

"It's because it's an unprocessed plant product. Cigarettes and alcoholic drinks are processed," Calzada said.

"The way to get revenue from marijuana for the control, prevention and treatment of addicts, just like we proposed, is through two non-taxing mechanisms: a fixed license fee that those who plant will pay and an adjustable levy on the product that the Institute of Cannabis Regulation and Control will change administratively."

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Leonardo Haberkorn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/leohaberkorn

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