When talking about cannabis legalization, countries like Canada, the US, and Spain are thought to be the most progressive. However, many of the firsts of marijuana legalization happened not in these places, but in South America. One of the interesting stories out of this region, is Argentina.
Cannabis is not legal recreationally in Argentina, but as of 2009 a supreme court ruling decriminalized personal use of small amounts, though no specific amount was set in the ruling. Called the Arriola decision (based on a case involving the arrest of five individuals for possessing small amounts of cannabis), the court determined that so long as it is meant for personal use only, cannot affect or hurt anyone else, and does not pose any harm or danger, that drugs in small quantities are decriminalized.
According to the court “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state.” The idea was to use time and resources to go after bigger cases, while letting small-time users complete programs, or get treatment of some kind. There is gray area left in not setting an amount for personal use – making it up to police officers or judges to use their discretion.
Trafficking of cannabis is illegal in Argentina and can incur prison sentences of 4-15 years. Commercial growing is illegal as well for residents.
What about medical?
When it comes to medical cannabis, it gets a bit more interesting. On March 29th, 2017, the Argentinian senate approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis. According to the bill, if patients want use of treatments with cannabis, they must register with the national program, administered by the Ministry of Health. The government went a step further even, and guaranteed free access to approved patients, including children.
This new law still restricts personal cultivation, even for medical use. The following government agencies are responsible for giving authorizations to companies for cultivation, handling, distribution, and importing: The National Council for Scientific and Technical Research, and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology. As of the passing of the law, cultivation for personal use still carries a sentence of up to two years.
Mama Cultiva, and how they helped bring change
Change can often move slow, and sometimes a little push is required. This is where Mama Cultiva came in. Mama Cultiva is a grassroots organization of South American mothers, most of whom have extremely sick children – or at least, that’s how it started. The goal of the organization is for relaxing legal provisions for using cannabis as a medicine, both in the ability to take the medicine, as well as the ability to grow the plant.
The organization lobbies for change in medical cannabis and personal use laws, throughout Latin America, and their contributions can be seen in places like Argentina where their influence helped change the legislation to open up a medical program.
Mama Cultiva operates as a…