BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The Argentine Senate has followed the example of the Chamber of Deputies and has officially signed into law the project that legalizes the use of medical marijuana in the country.
The process began in mid-2015 when nearly 150 Argentine families petitioned Congress to hear their pleas for the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
The families shared the stories of their sick children whose afflictions mostly involved refractory (drug-resistant) epilepsy but also conditions like sclerosis, encephalopathy and hypoxia that produced violently traumatic seizures.
As part of a very limited experiment carried out by Argentina’s drug agency, the National Administration of Medicines, Nutrition and Medical Technology (ANMAT), these families were allowed to give their children doses of cannabidiol (CBD) extract, a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, in the form of drops of oil.
The families all reported a significant improvement in the epileptic episodes of their children, with some even seeing a complete cessation of symptoms while others were able to greatly reduce the number of seizures and stop (or greatly reduce) the ingestion of often-harmful and debilitating medications.
Taking into consideration their accounts, along with the results of research conducted around the world, a project that would legalize medicinal marijuana was introduced before the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of Congress) where it was approved in a vote in November of 2016.
Now, after it was placed on the backburner for well over a year as it waited to be voted upon at the gridlocked Senate, the law was finally approved by the 72-seat upper house with 58 votes in favor.
The law specifically allows the State to legally import and distribute the CBD oil until it is eventually capable of producing the oil itself domestically. As of now, several organisms of the government, including ANMAT, have been authorized to begin research and development on the CBD product that they will eventually produce.
“We now finally have a legal framework for the use of medical marijuana, which is the research, production and eventual distribution and treatment by the marijuana oil for medicinal purposes,” said Ana García, the head of the Medical Cannabis Argentina (Cameda) advocacy group.
“There was nothing like this before in our country and it finally took us as mothers and as the organization to make our voices heard,” explained García, whose child suffered from crippling epileptic seizures until his condition was greatly improved through the use of CBD oil.
The proponents of the legalization of medical marijuana hailed the passage of the law as one of a compassionate measure, one that can help reduce the pain and suffering of patients affected by a variety of diseases.
In addition, families do not have to risk arrest and prison by growing their own cannabis illegally or purchase the cannabis from criminal drug dealers.
With the ratification of the bill, Argentina now joins other Latin American nations like Chile, Colombia and Uruguay that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Like the laws in those other nations, Argentina’s version also forbids the patients or their guardians from growing and cultivating the cannabis themselves; only the national medical authorities are allowed to produce the oil and provide the patients with the medicine.
Furthermore, Argentina will create a “Voluntary National Registry” in which the patients receiving medical marijuana can sign up for a list that includes individuals who will possibly one day be allowed to cultivate the marijuana themselves, an act that is still illegal and punishable with prison time.
The families have already said that they will push for this right next but a plan to reform the law in order to allow patients to cultivate their own medicine is not expected to be heard in Congress for a signifcant amount of time.