Two weeks ago, the government of Argentina gained final legislative approval of a bill allowing for the medicinal use of cannabis oil. This legislation also permits cannabis to be grown for both research and therapeutic purposes. The unanimously approved bill helps to establish a means for scientific exploration of the effectiveness of marijuana to treat numerous diseases, as well as a way for Argentina to provide medical cannabis to patients free of charge.

This bill, having already been passed by the Argentinian House of Representatives last November, was championed by a group of 136 families. These families were attempting to petition the use of medicinal cannabis to treat children who suffer from diseases, like epilepsy, which have been scientifically proven to be treatable by cannabis. The major argument, other than the scientific evidence, is that medical cannabis improves both the quality of life of the children, as well as the family members tasked with taking care of them.

“It’s heartening to see Argentina prioritizing accessibility by providing medical marijuana at no cost to patients,”

said Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance.

“This bill was long championed by families and patients whose suffering has been alleviated with medical marijuana, and it’s a relief they’ve finally been heard.”

What Does the New Legislation Say?

The new legislation passed by Argentina does the following:

  • Government agencies are authorized to grow marijuana for research purposes.
  • The government can produce cannabis oil and derivatives for patients.
  • Argentina can import cannabis until the government supply can be locally sourced.
  • Medical CBD oil can be distributed for free, to those patients who qualify.

Common Theme in South America

These big changes are not just happening in Argentina. Due to an ever-increasing wealth of pre clinical evidence as to marijuana’s medical benefits, cannabis reform has been picking up steam faster than ever. In recent years, a number of Latin American countries have made great strides toward the legalization and regulation of cannabis throughout the continent.

  • Uruguay – Became the first country to completely legalize recreational cultivation and use in 2013. Recently, the government has put into motion their plans to make cannabis available for purchase in pharmacies.
  • Brazil – This year, Brazil has begun issuing licenses to sell cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs for patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis.
  • Mexico – The Mexican government decriminalized growing cannabis for personal use in 2015.
  • Chile and Colombia – Both countries have taken strides to adopt similar regulations to Argentina, allowing medical use of cannabis for specific treatment.

Going Forward in Argentina

In Argentina, individuals are still not permitted to cultivate their own marijuana. The punishments for breaking this law include up to 15 years imprisonment if intent to sell for commercial purposes is established. Growth for personal use can hold a jail sentence of up to 2 years.

Ana Maria Garcia Nicora, President of Medical Cannabis Argentina (CAMEDA) implies that cultivation is the obvious next step for cannabis advocates: “This law is the beginning…we achieved something important because we raised awareness and then implemented legislation for the benefit of everyone…however, it is clear that individual cultivation is very important, we need to keep working.”

Legislation being pushed by many different private pro-medical marijuana groups continues to increase, and progress is being made. Valera Salech, president of Mama Cultiva Argentina and major advocate of allowing the private growth of cannabis said,

“In history, the big things always come in small steps.”

The support and momentum of medical cannabis use is steadily growing. In the shift toward legalization and regulation, Latin America has emerged as a leader. This is a remarkable shift for a region so often stereotyped as a hotbed for illegal activity regarding controlled substances. While there is still room for improvement, the obvious progress being made toward decriminalization and education is promising.