Last week, the Peruvian Congress approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana. With 67 votes in favor, five against, and three abstentions, the initiative passed with a high level of support across political parties. The bill legalizes the use, production and distribution of marijuana and its derivatives for patients with chronic or terminal illnesses.
“It’s encouraging that Peru is finally recognizing the urgency of providing access to medical marijuana,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States fighting for drug policy reform. “The government now needs to make sure that such access is meaningful, including for low-income families, and that it clears the records of parents and others who have been cruelly sanctioned for using and growing marijuana for medical purposes.”
The bill will become law in 60 days, after the government establishes the regulations for production and sale. The Peruvian Congress envisions a confidential registry created by the Ministry of Health for patients where doctors can provide information on the illness and recommended dose. Authorization for cultivation and production will be granted by the government through state institutions and universities will receive permits to investigate the benefits and effects of medical marijuana.
Peru began debating the decriminalization of medical marijuana in February, after Peruvian police shut down a makeshift laboratory where a group of mothers was making marijuana oil for their sick children. The raid garnered media attention and sparked a public outrage, including a march on Congress and testimonies from celebrities supporting the bill.
The laboratory was being used by Buscando Esperanza (Searching for Hope), an association of mothers who cultivated marijuana oil for their children suffering from epilepsy, tuberous sclerosis, and other illnesses. In a statement, Buscando Esperanza recognized the advance that the bill represents but highlighted its limitations. The bill does not allow associations like Buscando Esperanza to continue producing marijuana oil. Buscando Esperanza is concerned that the price of imported marijuana derivatives would be prohibitive and that the strains produced for medical purposes would be limited.
Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, the author of the bill, hopes to find ways to allow patients’ associations to produce their own oil, potentially through partnerships with university programs. He is working on wiping the records of the Buscando Esperanza mothers who were prosecuted for drug trafficking after the police raid.
Marijuana reform has gained momentum across the Americas in recent years. Colombia and Puerto Rico legalized medical marijuana through Executive Orders; Chile allows for the cultivation of marijuana for medical patients; Jamaica decriminalized the use of marijuana for medical, scientific and religious purposes; Brazil allows for the importation of CBD-oils; Mexico recently passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana; and Uruguay legalized marijuana for medical and non-medical use. The United States has legalized medical marijuana in 29 states and non-medical marijuana in eight states. Canada will soon join Uruguay in regulating marijuana for medical and non-medical uses nationwide.