It seems like the idea of introducing cannabis to the Argentine healthcare system no longer seems as far-fetched as it once did. After the province of Chubut last week legalized cannabis oil to treat Davet syndrome — a form of epilepsy common among infants — President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition accepted to discuss the possibility of sanctioning a national law that would enable the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The debate is now scheduled to take place in a special Lower House committee on October 13.
Cambiemos lawmaker Luis Petri made the announcement yesterday in the Lower House of Congress as part a debate regarding to so-called “chemical precursors” law. This project has no relation with cannabis except for the fact that it also has to do with drugs: it establishes prison sentences or fines to those who commercialize plants or chemicals with the intent of using them to later produce drugs instead of using them for their legal purpose. Some members of the opposition did see it as the perfect time to bring up a debate that many sectors of society had been demanding for a while now.
“This is the moment to treat the use of cannabis with therapeutic purposes for many people who need it to solve serious health issues,” said National lawmaker, and former Defense minister, Nilda Garré .
Following numerous demands, Petri agreed to call a debate on the issue as part of a special commission that will group together several committees, including Homeland Security, Health and Addiction-prevention. “The approval of this bill [chemical precursors] won’t be an obstacle to discuss a law on medical cannabis,” Petri said.
In an interview with Mexican News Agency Notimex, President Mauricio Macri said “there is always” the possibility of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but that the country should first analyze the experience that other countries, including Uruguay, had with the issue first.
It does seem that lawmakers advocating for medical marijuana plan to take their demands further and push for the general decriminalization of drugs. Garré recalled in the debate that article 19 of the Constitution says private actions that do not hurt others cannot be penalized by law.
“We’re sticking with a policy of going after consumers, who are the victims of this process,” Garré said.
The Supreme Court established a precedent along these lines when it ruled in favor of decriminalizing possession for personal consumption in the 2009 Arriola Case. According to that groundbreaking sentence, it is unconstitutional to punish an adult for possessing and consuming a drug in private as long as he or she is discrete about it, doesn’t jeopardize a third party and doesn’t intend to sell it.
That ruling was never turned into law, and that led to a legal loopholes in which police can still arrest consumers only to have judges release them when they get their hands on the case. According to a series of report issued by Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado, “100 percent” of the cases involving marijuana for personal consumption were dismissed.
Moving toward a general decriminalization may be a harder sell for Cambiemos. In a recent interview with BuzzFeed, Macri said the issue was not a priority for the government.