Argentina Greenlights Free Cannabis Oil In New Medical Pot Measure

By Keri Blakinger 04/05/17
Advocates say the measure will be beneficial to those suffering from medical conditions who haven't had luck with mainstream treatment methods.
cannabis oil and a nugget of marijuana

Don’t cry for me, Argentina—just spark up a joint instead. 

Last week, lawmakers in the South American nation approved the use of marijuana for medical use, as well as a new measure that will provide free marijuana to qualifying patients. 

The legislation earned the Senate’s final approval last Wednesday, paving the way for the creation of a regulatory framework to monitor the distribution of cannabis oil and other marijuana derivatives. 

“In history, the big things always come in small steps,” Valeria Salech, president of the pro-pot group Mama Cultiva Argentina, told the Associated Press

Advocates touted the measure as a boon to those suffering from medical conditions that don’t respond to mainstream treatment methods. "Thirty percent of epileptics do not respond to traditional medicine," said Dr. Ana María García Nicora, who leads the Medical Cannabis Argentina group.

"My daughter has had epilepsy for 24 years and this is an option for her. Now we have a legal framework within which (there is) the use for research and treatment and production of medicinal cannabis,” she continued. “There had been nothing like this in Argentina.”

Senator Juan Manuel Abal Medina said the bill will help parents looking for the best treatment choices for their children. “The state cannot remain indifferent to that pain,” he added. 

The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, according to the Buenos Aires Herald. It will become law once it’s signed by President Mauricio Macri, whose Cambiemos party backed the bill. 

As word of the measure’s approval spread stateside, American activists celebrated the news. 

“It’s heartening to see Argentina prioritizing accessibility by providing medical marijuana at no cost to patients,” Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement. “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.”

But despite the early hope for success with the law-to-be, some are pushing for further action. 

Nicora called the law a “beginning” and said she planned to continue pushing for a broader measure allowing Argentinians to grow their own pot. Under the new legislation, cultivation will still be an offense punishable by up to two years in prison if it’s deemed to be for personal use, and 15 years if it’s a commercial grow.

The National Agency of Public Laboratories will oversee the nation’s legal pot production efforts, and the Ministry of Health will create a national registry of approved medical marijuana patients. 

Chile and Colombia have already approved laws similar to Argentina’s new medicinal measure, and Uruguay has even green-lighted recreational pot use in an effort to drive business away from illicit drug traffickers. In Peru, a bill allowing cannabis oil is pending in Congress and in Brazil, government regulators have issued a license approving the country’s first legal medical marijuana oral spray. 

In the U.S., marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but a growing number of individual states have approved its use either recreationally or medically. Last year, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all approved recreational pot, which was already legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. 

To the north, Canadian leaders have said they hope to approve recreational weed sometime next year

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.