LIMA, Peru – Joining several other countries in the region, Peru has become the latest Latin American nation to approve the use of medicinal marijuana for treating serious illnesses.

The proposal for the decriminalization of the use of marijuana and its derivatives for medicinal purposes was submitted by the inter-party duo of Tania Pariona (left-wing Broad Front) and Alberto de Belaunde (center-right PPK).

The bill, which also permits the importation and commercialization of the medicinal marijuana products, was easily approved by a count of 67 votes in favor, 5 against and 3 abstentions by the unicameral legislature. The country’s head-of-state, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, is expected to sign the bill into law later this week.

Once the bill is signed by Kuczynski, it is expected that the Health Ministry will create several registries, including those of an approved patient list and their respective illnesses and a list of doctors and medical organizations authorized to prescribe medical marijuana.

Furthermore, registries will also be created in the fields related to the marijuana itself: the persons and organizations that are allowed to import the marijuana, the laboratories and companies that produce the marijuana and its derivatives, a list of dispensaries and the entities involved in the research of medical marijuana and its treatments.

With the passage of the bill, Peru joins a growing list of Latin American nations that have decriminalized the use of medical marijuana.

In May of 2017, Mexico’s Congress approved the medicinal use of marijuana following a long debate which was sparked by the 2015 case of an 8-year-old girl who suffered from severe daily epileptic seizures. She was given the first medical marijuana use authorization by a judge of a local-level Mexico City court.

The decision, which applied only to the young girl, was given media coverage and in response, thousands of parents across Mexico rallied to be given the same rights for their children after the young girl’s parents shared how the treatment greatly helped their daughter with her debilitating condition.

With the ratification of the bill, Mexico joined other Latin American nations like Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

De Belaunde, one of the co-sponsors of the Peruvian bill, mentioned those nations when outlining others that have legalized medicinal marijuana: “Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay already have some sort of regulation of medical cannabis on their legal books, not to mention so do many European countries, Australia, Canada and 20 states in the United States.”

Pariona, the other co-sponsor, said that the bill is “a very important step in establishing the legal framework” for medicinal marijuana use and that “innocent mothers and fathers that simply want to ease their suffering and their children’s suffering will not have their benevolent actions criminalized.”

The congresswoman’s comments referred to the estimated 100,000 people in Peru that illegally consume marijuana and marijuana products like cannabis oil to improve their quality of life and ease suffering from ailments like epilepsy, various cancers, parkinson’s disease and other chronic and terminal illnesses.

The sponsors of the bill placed emphasis on the fact that their initiative only applies to the use of medicinal marijuana, not recreational.

“The cannabis that is consumed for recreational uses has a much higher THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient) content than the medical cannabis, which is consumed through oil, ointments and edible derivatives as opposed being smoked,” De Belaunde explained before the vote.

Like the laws in the other Latin American nations, Peru’s version also forbids the patients or their guardians from growing and cultivating the cannabis themselves; only the pertinent authorities are allowed to produce the product and provide the patients with the medicine, but this may be amended in the future.