Yesterday, the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis. The initiative will now make its way to the Senate and, if passed, will become a law.
With 220 votes in favor, 0 against and 1 abstention, the bill authorizes the medicinal use of cannabis and establishes a framework for the development of scientific investigation. It also enables the State to cultivate the plant for research purposes and to import and distribute its oil for the treatment of certain medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV and multiple sclerosis.
— Diputados Argentina (@DiputadosAR) November 23, 2016
Opposition parties did, however, manage to make an important amendment to the bill presented by the Macri administration. The heavily contested 8th article which proposes the legalization of cultivating cannabis for personal use is yet to be approved.
And in this respect, the bill’s current wording can only be viewed as a partial success for the non-lawmaker parties pushing for it: “What we’re pushing for is that the legalization of cultivating cannabis for personal use, that’s our goal,” stated Valeria Salech, the president of Mamá Cultiva in Argentina, an organization made up of relatives of those who suffer from the diseases and conditions who benefit from medicinal cannabis use and actively advocated for the clause to be included, adding that the legalization of home-growing cannabis “is the only way to democratically attain the medicine.”
Without legal protection for cannabis cultivation, Salech explained that families growing the plant for medicinal purposes directly suffer as they “cannot receive the police in their homes” in the case of a robbery. In short, the mothers who make up the organization cultivate cannabis and could be prosecuted on account of it. For this reason, the government’s proposal to authorize the medicinal use of the plant is, in itself, “insufficient” for the mothers of children suffering acute medical conditions.
Deputy Juan Manuel Pedrini said that during the debate it was these “mothers that made us listen to them and not to the laboratories,” before adding that “the best tribute to Mamá Cultiva is to fulfill their request, which is to decriminalize, and support cultivation.”
Although there were indeed many legislators like Pedrini who supported the idea of decriminalizing cultivation, they ended up siding with the majority so that the bill would pass. But while cultivation is yet to be approved, that could change as the bill passes to the Senate. Deputy Carolina Gaillard (FPV), speaking in support of Mamá Cultiva’s goal of decriminalizing cultivation, declared that the article that made it to the bill “is not the one we were expecting: “we wanted a register that would issue permits for those who grow with medical purposes,” so they could grow “without fear of being raided by police or undergoing a criminal process. We hope that the Executive Power clarifies the situation in its ruling and establishes that it will be legalized,” Gaillard added.
“We can’t wait a day longer to sort out this law and its regulation must take place as soon as possible,” said Gaillard, referring to the next step in the Senate. Because while we sit and discuss the bill those who depend on the plant for its medicinal qualities, along with their relatives can face legal repercussions.