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