Argentina legalises growing of cannabis for medical use by individuals

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Argentina’s government on Thursday legalised the growing of cannabis for medical use by individuals and networks, as well as the sale of creams and oils made from the plant in pharmacies.

The move was made official via the publication of a decree published in the Official Gazette. The new rules are revisions to a law first approved back in March 2017 that authorised the medicinal use of cannabis oils, but maintained an existing prohibition on the cultivation of the plant and the possession of seeds by individuals or groups.

The new decree, signed by President Alberto Fernández, seeks to allow "timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool," according to its text.

"It is urgent to create a regulatory framework that allows timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool," reads Decree 883/2020. 

The new rules state that the sale of cannabis oils and creams in pharmacies and the personal and organised cultivation of the plant is authorised for users, researchers and patients who are registered under the Reprocann programme (“National Cannabis Programme”), a scheme that was created by the 2017 law but is not yet fully operational.

Patients and relatives of children with serious diseases who use cannabis oil to improve their quality of life have been pushing for the right to grow their own plants in order to produce their own specific oil. Many have continued to do so, despite being punished for doing so by the courts.

Campaigners celebrated the news. "Today we cry with joy because we started this fight for our children ... We are a great family fighting for the same right, the right to quality of life. We are going to cultivate our own medicine without fear … We are not criminals," said the Mamá Cultiva campaign group in a message posted on social networks. 

Cannabis oil is used for the treatment of epilepsy as well as other palliative therapies. Individuals suffering from cancer, fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as others, also use cannabis products to alleviate the effects of their illnesses.

The new rules also give the greenlight to the importation of medicinal cannabis products for illnesses. Previously the rules only applied to some forms of epilepsy. Companies will now be able to "acquire medicinal specialties elaborated in the country or acquire magisterial formulations elaborated by authorized pharmacies," according to the decree.

The national government will promote the public production of cannabis for medicinal use and will guarantee access for patients who do not have coverage under prepaid health schemes or union social work.

Details on the number of plants registered users will be able to grow will follow in the coming days, officials said. 

In 2013, neighbouring Uruguay became the first country to pass a law that allows the cultivation of marijuana for self-consumption at home, as well as the establishment of growers' clubs to plant cooperatively, and purchases in pharmacies. Since then, several Latin American countries have relaxed prohibitions on marijuana.

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