The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a decree to regulate the cultivation, processing, import and export of medical marijuana on December 22. Medicinal cannabis has technically been legal in the northern-most South American country since 1986, but national production was hindered because a regulatory system was never established by previous laws.
Santos notified Colombian citizens of the new law, which establishes a system for licensing cultivators, processors and retailers, during a televised speech. Cannabis, in all forms, for medical and scientific use is now legal and able to be regulated in Colombia.
“This decree allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants and marijuana,”
Santos announced from the presidential palace.
“It places Colombia in the group of countries that are at the forefront… in the use of natural resources to fight disease.”
President Juan Manuel Santos signing the decree legalizing the use of medical marijuana, next to Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria, in Bogota on December 22, 2015 (AFP Photo/Juan Pablo Bello)
Now that the decree to regulate medicinal cannabis has been signed, those seeking to cultivate cannabis will be able to apply for licenses through the National Narcotics Council. Manufacturing licenses, for those who wish to process cannabis into concentrates and edibles, will be permitted by the health ministry.
Manufacturing regulations will be just as important as cultivation so that patients can have safe, reliable access to non-smokeable forms of cannabis, like concentrates which can be vaporized and infused foods and tinctures which can be ingested.
“Our goal is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country,”
The decree also permits health ministry licensed companies to export cannabis products to other countries.
Colombia now joins Uruguay, where cannabis was fully legalized in 2014 and Chile, where the government is also reportedly looking to establish an international sales market for their medical cannabis program, in the group of South American countries which have chosen to reform national cannabis policies.
When medical marijuana was legalized in Chile last year, it became the first country in South America to implement a government-backed program that allowed the cultivation of its own cannabis. A few months before Chile legalized it for medicinal use and cultivation, Uruguay became the first country in South America to implement full legalization.
As time goes by, the benefits of marijuana as a medicine are beginning to become more accepted, and demand for the product is growing. In La Florida, Chile, last year, the Daya Foundation was charged with spearheading the growing project. Nicolas Dormal, a leader and co-founder of the foundation stated:
“Eventually, we want to make cannabis medicine available for everybody, even if they can’t afford it.”
Unlike Uruguay, Chile’s acceptance did not originally extend to personal use. Less than a year ago, Rodolfo Carter, the mayor of the town where the marijuana was planted, stated:
“We don’t want to get into a debate about the personal use of marijuana.”
What started as an attitude of approval for marijuana’s medical benefits, however, has since expanded into a greater desire for it to also be accepted for personal use. The lower house of the Chilean Congress has just approved a bill that not only decriminalizes recreational use, but which would also allow residents to grow their own cannabis in small quantities. Despite some criticism from a few representatives, the bill passed by a huge margin, with 68 voting in favor of the measure and only 39 voting against it.
If fully implemented, each household will be permitted to grow a maximum of six plants for recreational, medicinal or spiritual use, something that has previously been punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Before the measure is finalized, however, it will need to go through two more steps. First, it will be presented to a health commission. If it gains approval, it will then go to the Senate for a final vote.
Proponents remain hopeful that once adopted, the law will aid patients in gaining affordable access to the medicinal marijuana that is badly needed.
photo credit: BBC
Over 100 desperate Chilean mothers started a support group called Mama Cultiva, or Mama Grows, to share information about medical marijuana in the treatment of epileptic children. The group of mothers host covert meetings to learn about the cultivation of marijuana as well as the extraction of the CBD known to treat epileptic conditions.
Though consumption of this life-saving medicine is permitted, the cultivation still remains highly illegal and carries up to a 15 year prison sentence. This hasn’t stopped this small group of Chilean mothers from taking actions to save their kids.
Paulina Bobadilla is just one of the many mothers who fights daily with the reality of severe epileptic conditions. Paulina told the Associated Press that her child was in such severe pain that she would tear out her own fingernails.
Another mother, Gabriela Reyes, is an active member of the group with a seven-month-old who was experiencing up to 300 seizures per day. After Gabriela began treating her infant with the extracted cannabis oil (with a few drops on the pacifier) the number of seizures dropped to just 12 per day.
The members of the group can undoubtedly relate in their sense of despair, and justly pay no attention to Chile’s cannabis laws. There are currently 15,000 children in Chile that could benefit from the still illegal cannabis oil.
In September, Chile’s government began planting 750 medical marijuana plants for use in medical research. Mama Cultiva was not permitted into the program due to their focus on children, a verdict that is somewhat counterintuitive.
Still, there remains hope for Chileans as the government tiptoes in to marijuana research and unwavering parents stand up for their ailing children.
In September of this year, the Chilean government announced that it would begin growing marijuana for medical research. In the short time since, research combined with lobbying by patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions has been enough for the government to permit marijuana to be planted, now, for medical use.
Today, a grow operation of seven-hundred-fifty medical marijuana plants will be set up in a residential neighborhood within the capital city district of La Florida just outside of Santiago. The plan is to harvest the plants in the spring to be turned into cannabis oil to treat chronic pain symptoms in two-hundred cancer patients.
The project is the first of it’s kind in Latin America, but joins a growing trend of research devoted to harnessing the medicinal value of the plant. The study will be conducted by Daya Foundation which are looking to test it’s efficacy as a pain reliever and a treatment for epilepsy.
For now, marijuana is only being considered for medical use. La Florida’s Mayor, Rodolfo Carter, told BBC News that he is not interested in following in the footsteps of Uruguay’s total legalization at this time.
“We don’t want to get into a debate about the personal use of marijuana. Let’s stick to the medical issue. This is about providing people who are suffering from cancer with a natural, healthier and cheaper treatment for their pain.”
Nicolas Dormal from the Daya Foundation says, “Cannabis can have some negative side effects but they are really insignificant beside other legal medicines. If you put the negative and positive effects in the balance, cannabis is much better than traditional medicine.”
One Chilean woman can agree with Nicolas from experience. Cecilia Heyder has obtained permission to use cannabis-based medicines after she was diagnosed with lupus and subsequently breast cancer. After trying over a dozen traditional pain relief medication with no success, Heyder used cannabis-infused tea to treat her pain.
The cannabis worked and Heyder went on to petition the government for access to medicinal marijuana. The government agreed to Cecilia’s requests and allowed her to import the medicine from Europe for the first time in Latin American history.
As countries like Chile and Uruguay struggle to find the right marijuana policy, lets hope for the patients’ sake that medical marijuana makes it to individuals like Cecilia Heyder who are in desperate need of the right medicine.
Photo Credit: BBC
Marijuana reform is sweeping across South America. Even before Uruguay legalized recreational marijuana, momentum to legalize medical marijuana in the region was growing. Chile recently announced that it has approved it’s first medical marijuana farm to grow marijuana for research. Per Latino Fox News:
Times are changing in South America quickly when it comes to marijuana. Following Uruguay’s recent move towards legalization, Chile has announced plans to start growing medical marijuana for research purposes. There have been several reports of the recreational legalization drastically hurting the bottom lines of cartels, furthered legislation in cartel homelands could only help this one would think.
From Fox News Latino:
The governor of Metropolitan Santiago, Claudio Orrego, announced on Monday the approval by Chilean authorities of the first farm in this capital to grow marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.
The initiative, presented on May 23 before the Agricultural and Livestock Service, or SAG, is being sponsored jointly by the Daya Foundation and the Santiago municipality of La Florida to produce cannabis oil for use in the treatment of cancer patients.
Having marijuana recognized as a legitimate and permitted form of medicine is crucial for future legislation in emerging markets. It’s exciting to see the Chilean government is moving quickly on the topic, passing the initiative less than four months after it was initially presented.
This is, without a doubt, a historic milestone. We’re starting to build a road toward alleviating the suffering of many people, we’re starting to build a friendlier society,” emphasized Daya Foundation president Ana Maria Gazmuri upon learning the news.
Current marijuana laws in Chile are rather confusing. While it’s not illegal to consume marijuana, it is illegal to cultivate or sale it. It’s a great day for Chile!
photo credit: Thomas Huston