Argentina legalized medical hashish in 2017 – and offers it away totally free
When it comes to legalizing cannabis, countries like Canada, the U.S., and Spain are considered the most advanced. However, many of the first legalizations for marijuana did not take place in these locations, but in South America. One of the interesting stories from this region is Argentina.
Cannabis is not legal in Argentina, but as of 2009, a Supreme Court ruling decriminalized personal use of small amounts, although the decision did not set a specific amount. The court named the Arriola ruling (based on a case in which five people were arrested for owning small amounts of cannabis) and found that as long as they are for personal use only, they cannot influence or harm anyone and do not constitute one Harm or risk of decriminalizing drugs in small quantities.
According to the court, "every adult is free to make lifestyle choices without government intervention." The idea was to use the time and resources to handle larger cases while small users could complete programs or get treatment. It remains a gray area if no amount is set for personal use. It is up to the police officer or judge to act at their own discretion.
The trade in cannabis is illegal in Argentina and can result in a prison sentence of 4 to 15 years. Commercial cultivation is also illegal for residents.
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What about medicine?
When it comes to medical cannabis, it gets a little more interesting. On March 29, 2017, the Argentine Senate approved a law to legalize medical cannabis. According to the law, if patients wish to use cannabis treatments, they must register with the national program managed by the Ministry of Health. The government went one step further and guaranteed free access to admitted patients, including children.
This new law also restricts personal cultivation for medical purposes. The following government agencies are responsible for granting business permits for cultivation, handling, distribution and import: The National Council for Scientific and Technical Research and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology. Cultivation for personal use is subject to a penalty of up to two years after the law has been passed.
Mama Cultiva and how they have helped bring about change
Changes can often move slowly, and sometimes a little pressure is required. This is where Mama Cultiva came into play. Mama Cultiva is a grassroots organization of South American mothers, most of whom have extremely sick children – or at least that's how it started. The organization aims to relax the legal requirements for the use of cannabis as a medicine, both in terms of its ability to take the medicine and its ability to grow the plant.
The organization is committed to changing medical cannabis and personal use laws across Latin America. Her contributions can be seen in countries like Argentina, where her influence has helped to change legislation to open a medical program.
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Mama Cultiva works as a non-profit organization and helps people suffering from diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, autism, etc. who have not benefited from Western medicine and who are looking for an alternative in the form of cannabis treatment. Mama Cultiva also functions as an educational platform with courses, seminars and workshops offered by local chapters. Over time, Mama Cultiva has gained a large following and has become a very attractive organization. And one that always reminds of the goal when things move too slowly.
When medical marijuana was legalized in Argentina, Mama Cultiva was furious that it did not include any personal growing regulations on what they want to change. "This law is the beginning … we achieved something important because we raised awareness and then implemented laws for the benefit of all … but it is clear that individual cultivation is very important, we have to keep working," said Valeria, Chapter President of Mama Cultiva Argentina Salech.
Together with Mama Cultiva, a group of 136 families of sick children applied to the government to use cannabis to treat their children who have a range of disorders.
Where does the free part come into play?
As part of the approval for medical cannabis, Law 27,350 provides for the creation of the National Program for the Investigation and Research into the Medical Use of the Cannabis Plant and its By-Products and Non-Conventional Treatments prior to the Medical "Program". One of the basic provisions of this program is to give people participating in the program access to medicinal cannabis oils (this is currently the only way to legally obtain medicinal cannabis).
The law states that those who need cannabis medication can get it for free. This may be due to the lack of a structured, regulated system. Regardless of why, the program is set up to offer medical cannabis oil free of charge to qualified patients. It is also set up as a research initiative, with the free cannabis oil being spent as part of the research initiative.
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There was no current program until summer 2018, but it was planned to carry out the first major medical cannabis cultivation in Argentina (legal) in the northeastern municipality of Jujuy. The oils from this crop are brought to hospitals across Argentina for clinical trials and are all free.
In addition to the “program”, the new law also includes the Cannabis Exceptional Access Regime, which allows products containing cannabis by-products to be imported for medical treatment. This applies to patients with epilepsy or other diseases whose scientific research supports treatment related to cannabis. In these cases, only a licensed doctor with a neurological specialization can import it. It is regulated in MoH Regulation No. 133.19. In these cases, I did not find a statement as to whether these drugs would be free, and they might have a price tag.
Where does CBD go?
When cannabis was decriminalized in Argentina in 2009, it included the cannabis cannabinoid CBD or cannabidiol. Unlike its more well-known counterpart THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is not psychoactive. Nevertheless, as part of the cannabis plant, it is often regulated with the rest of the plant, despite its multitude of possible medical benefits and lack of psychoactive agents. In 2009, it was decriminalized for personal use, and in 2017, when medical marijuana was legalized, CBD was also legalized in that capacity. It is not legal for recreational use and requires a prescription or is part of the "program".
Promising free medical marijuana is a pretty big step, although Argentina is the worst health case out there. If the medical marijuana program is expanded to include more diseases (and more patients), new structural laws may need to be passed to regulate a payment system when the government can no longer guarantee it.
I wonder if it would still be free if there was already a legal and research framework in place to work with (bypassing the need for years of study and configuration of structural outlines), but there seems to be an obligation to help people. and ensure that people get what they need in the most extreme cases, whether they have money to pay or not.
Given the many rapid regulatory changes that have been made in South America and Africa in recent years, many have been made to commercialize and sell cannabis while it remains an illegal drug (also for medical purposes!) In the countries mentioned it's nice to see a program that aims to do real good for citizens. It certainly says very well for Argentina that it is important to make their medicine available to people free of charge. Let's hope it stays that way.
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