Argentina to allow home-growing of marijuana for medicinal use

By Aitor Pereira

Buenos Aires, Aug 11 (efe-epa).- Argentina’s government is poised to allow people to home-grow marijuana for medicinal purposes, a move seen as a step toward a comprehensive law regulating all uses of the cannabis plant.

The draft text of new implementing regulations for a 2017 law covering “medical and scientific research on the medicinal use of the cannabis plant and its derivatives” is now in the hands of different organizations.

Besides allowing self-cultivation of marijuana, it proposes expanding the range of pathologies that may be treated with cannabis and permitting the sale of derivatives such cannabidiol (CBC) oil at pharmacies.

One of the organizations involved in the discussions has been Mama Cultiva (Mom Grows), a non-governmental organization that was founded in 2016 in Chile at the initiative of a group of mothers of children “with different health conditions.”

It has advocated since then for marijuana legalization and now says that goal is closer to being reached than ever before.

“It’s not a law on usage. It doesn’t regulate cannabis. It’s a research law, and the fact that we can insert a mini-regulation in that research law for those of us who grow (the plant) for our health is a big deal,” the president of the Argentine chapter of Mama Cultiva, Valeria Salech, told Efe.

The original law was approved in 2017 during the administration of former President Mauricio Macri with the goal of promoting “medical and scientific research into the medicinal, therapeutic and/or palliative uses of the plant.”

Current President Alberto Fernandez’s administration now is in the process of issuing broader and more permissive regulations that would provide cannabis rights organizations an initial victory, even though their ultimate goals still would be far from being fulfilled.

“We now have to work as a society – now that there’s quite a large consensus throughout civil society – on a new law that doesn’t cover medical and scientific research but instead regulates the use of cannabis in all its variants and for all of its uses. We have to start by working to undo the demonization brought about by prohibition,” Salech said.

In legislating the use of the cannabis plant, institutions tend to differentiate between medicinal and recreational use, but Mama Cultiva instead views recreational use as important for mental health.

“For me, recreational use is part of therapeutic use … During the pandemic this has become very clear. People went out to protest because they wanted recreation, because recreation is mental health. The use of cannabis is always therapeutic,” Salech said.

The new proposed implementing regulations also give doctors wide discretion to prescribe cannabis for any pathology, while the original law only contemplated that plant’s use for treating refractory epilepsy.

“I think it’s good that it’s left to a doctor’s judgment,” Salech said. “Maybe a person who’s stressed or has some type of anxiety disorder could use cannabis, and we don’t necessary have to categorize (the problem) as a pathology.”

But the pro-legalization Argentine Cannabis Confederation, which comprises producers of products such as cannabis-infused beers and cannabis-growing supplies, complained that his group has had no voice in the debate on the draft regulations and said they do not go far enough.

Although that confederation’s president, Leandro Ayala, told Efe that the cannabis industry can benefit from self-cultivation by supplying the inputs for these home-growers, he expressed concern that people still face possible criminal sanctions for low-level possession.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with low-level possession, which is what’s hurting us at the moment, the fact that we can be arrested for carrying two marijuana cigarettes,” he added.

He also said he does not approve of cannabis consumption’s being associated with pathologies.

“I don’t celebrate that because you’re only going to be able to grow if you’re sick, and in my case I don’t feel like a sick person. I use (cannabis) recreationally. Why do I have to use the shield of saying I have a pathology in order to grow when that’s not true?” he said.

A comprehensive marijuana law would allow growers such as Lucas Goffri, a member of a marijuana club, to come out of the shadows.

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