Latin America

Colombia moves closer to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes

Government preparing order to allow patients to use pharmaceuticals containing the drug

Cannabis being grown for medicinal purposes.
Cannabis being grown for medicinal purposes.CLIFF DESPEAUX

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos could soon sign an executive order that would legalize marijuana for medical and therapeutic purposes in the country.

The draft of the order, which has been approved by the health, justice and agriculture ministries, states that patients in the country – whether Colombians or foreigners with residency permits – must first obtain a government permit before being allowed to start any marijuana treatment.

The move comes after the Mexican Supreme Court gave the greenlight to one group to use the drug for recreational purposes, and the Mexican Senate began discussing a proposal to import marijuana-based medical products for certain patients.

The move comes after the Mexican Supreme Court gave the greenlight to one group to use the drug

Until now, Uruguay is the only Latin American nation that has given blanket approval to the general use of marijuana by its citizens.

Santos’s proposed order will not allow the recreational use of marijuana, but will specify rules concerning the production, exportation and distribution of the drug for medical and scientific purposes – all under strict government controls.

Justice Minister Yesid Reyes explained that the manufacture of creams, oils and ointments derived from marijuana will no longer be prohibited, and that there was also the possibility in the future that these products might be exported to countries where they are legal.

According to the government, the move could generate around $2 million in annual revenue over the next five years.

The government’s initiative is similar to a bill to regulate marijuana for therapeutic purposes under discussion by Colombia’s lawmakers. This proposal has been held up in Congress because lawmakers have been slow to pursue it.

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According to a report by a group of World Health Organization experts on substance abuse, the use of medical marijuana has increased over the last two decades.

In Brazil last year, authorities gave one patient a permit to use a pharmaceutical that contained marijuana, among other ingredients. Although this was an isolated case, it opened a national debate on the issue.

In Argentina, studies are being carried out at the University of La Plata to evaluate marijuana’s effectiveness as a medical treatment.

At the same time, Chile is debating a bill governing the cultivation and use of the drug for medical purposes, while earlier this year the governor of Puerto Rico signed an executive order legalizing medicinal marijuana.

In Colombia, the Foundation for Cultivating Hope has been fighting for years to allow epilepsy patients to be able to use cannabis products as an alternative treatment. More than 60 people who suffer from the condition make up the group.

English version by Martin Delfin.

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