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Argentina Legalizes Medical Marijuana, Will Provide it to Patients Free of Charge

Argentina’s Senate gave final legislative approval to a bill that legalizes marijuana for medical purposes and establishes a regulatory framework.

Argentina’s Senate voted unanimously last week to approve a bill that legalizes the use of cannabis oil and other marijuana derivatives for medical purposes. The new legislation, which will become law once signed by President Mauricio Macri, sets up a regulatory framework to prescribe and distribute the medical cannabis to patients.

The legislation, previously approved by the Chamber of Deputies, also creates a medical marijuana research program at the Health Ministry. The Ministry of Health will be charged with creating a national registry and patients who join the research program are guaranteed “free access” to cannabis oil and other derivatives.

“It’s heartening to see Argentina prioritizing accessibility by providing medical marijuana at no cost to patients,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “This bill was long championed by families and patients whose suffering has been alleviated with medical marijuana, and it’s a relief they’ve finally been heard.”

Over 130 Argentina families had petitioned the government to allow them to use medical cannabis to treat their children diagnosed with epilepsy, autism, and other ailments. A group of mothers of children with severe diseases, self-named Mamà Cultiva Argentina, had pushed for the cannabis reform while illegally growing and producing cannabis oil on their own. The new law does now allow patients to home cultivate their own marijuana.

“This law is the beginning…we achieved something important because we raised awareness and then implemented legislation for the benefit of everyone…however, it is clear that individual cultivation is very important, we need to keep working,” said Valeria Salech, president of Mamà Cultiva Argentina, in response to the passing of the bill.

The offense for growing marijuana continues to be punishable by up to two years in prison if deemed it is for personal use, and up to 15 years if authorities believe it is intended for commercial distribution.

The new legislation calls for government agencies to grow cannabis for research and produce oil and derivatives for patients, but until it can be produced locally the state will import the cannabis material.

With the new law, Argentina becomes the latest nation in Latin America to expand legal access to cannabis. Colombia, Puerto Rico, Chile and Mexico have recently legalized cannabis products for medical purposes, while Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis use in 2013.

Meanwhile in the United States, 28 states have so far passed comprehensive laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes. The West Virginia Legislature has passed a medical marijuana bill that is now on the desk of Gov. Jim Justice, who has said he is “open” to legalization.

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