Argentinian mothers of kids with severe diseases have banded together to illegally cultivate marijuana and fight for medical cannabis law reform.
Despite their country’s prohibition of medical marijuana, a group of Argentine mothers are growing marijuana and producing cannabis oil illegally in an effort to help their children that have been diagnosed with diseases like epilepsy and autism.
In a recent interview with VOA News, mother Valeria Salech explained that she’s given her 10-year-old son Emiliano cannabis oil since December 2015. The cannabis, she claimed, has helped to control his epileptic seizures. She said that just a few hours after administering the cannabis oil, Emiliano went from being in a catatonic state to making eye contact and smiling.
“All the mothers remember that first day when we gave the oil to our children,” Salech told VOA News. “And you just cannot believe it.”
Salech has since become president of a group called Mamà Cultiva Argentina, or Mom Cultivates, which pushes for medical cannabis reform and exchanges cultivation tips. There are currently about 500 women who are a part of the organization and growing marijuana.
“We did what the state cannot do for us – that is to cultivate a lot [of cannabis] to have enough for all of us all the time,” Salech said.
Research has shown cannabis to be effective for reducing or even eliminating seizures. A 2015 study published in Epilepsy Behavior found CBD-enriched cannabis to reduce seizure frequency in 85 percent of children with epilepsy, with 14 percent reporting complete seizure freedom.
Studies also indicate that marijuana can be beneficial for children with autism. A 2010 study found THC to reduce the hyperactivity, irritability, lethargy and inappropriate speech symptoms associated with condition.
Argentina has long been opposed to cannabis, but there’s been a significant shift in social acceptance. Over 100,000 people marched the streets of Buenos Aires last May to demand legalization.
The efforts to loosen medical cannabis laws have led to legislative developments. The southern Argentinean province of Chubut became the first jurisdiction last September to allow cannabidiol (CBD) oil to be distributed in public hospitals for patients with epilepsy and other serious diseases.
Then, a bill was passed late last year that allows for cannabis oil to be imported nationwide to patients. The new law also allows for scientific research into the medical properties of marijuana and its derivatives. Medical marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as personal cultivation of any cannabis, however, remains prohibited.
Salech told VOA News that despite the new law, she plans to continue growing cannabis to produce oil for her son and encouraging her government to legalize full strength medical marijuana.
Efforts to legalize cannabis have gained ground recently in several other Central and Southern American countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Chile. Like Argentina, Mexico and Brazil are allowing the importation of CBD products for patients with a prescription. The Chilean Congress passed legislation to authorize the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana and the country opened the largest medicinal marijuana farm in Latin America last year.