Argentina May Loosen the Reins on Medical Cannabis

Argentina’s medical cannabis landscape could soon be transformed. 

Last Wednesday, the nation’s Health Minister, Ginés González García, unveiled a new draft regulation for the South American country’s medical cannabis program. Many aspects of the regulation are still being worked out, but the government is expected to agree on a final draft in the coming weeks. 

Along with members of the Ministry of Health, González García presented the regulations to an Honorary Advisory Council that has helped shape the regulation since February, and which includes representatives of the National Drug, Food and Technology Administration (similar to the US Food and Drug Administration), NGOs, scientific entities, laboratory agencies, and universities.

The regulation, if implemented, will allow for home cultivation of cannabis—the amount yet to be determined—for medical purposes, and the sales of oils and topicals in pharmacies in the country. Argentina’s existing medical cannabis regulations, crafted after medical cannabis became legal in 2017, are narrow in scope and allow only for the import of select high CBD products for patients with epilepsy and for their use in some clinical studies. 

“Society is ready for this, and a little more,” Gaston Barreto, a professor at the Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, and a member of the Honorary Advisory Council, told Cannabis Wire. “There is a large number of people who are consuming cannabis and its derivatives who are in a nebula of illegality, so the demand is there and I think this regulation is going to be very well received.”  

According to Barreto, Argentina’s existing medical cannabis regulations fail to address the needs of patients, who turn to the illicit market to seek treatment because of the current restrictive rules.

“It does not solve the problems of access for people with unsatisfied health needs,” he said. “It does not remove the administrative bureaucracy for research projects.” 

The new regulation, however, “is a broader regulation that reflects reality much better,” he said.

With the new regulation, Argentina will allow personal cultivation of cannabis by patients, or a family member on the patient’s behalf, who register in the country’s national cannabis program. The limits on the number of plants allowed in each household is still to be determined by the Ministry. Currently, possessing seeds or plants, even for therapeutic consumption, is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. Researchers who register with the program will also be allowed to cultivate, though the specifics have yet to be determined.

The regulation would also allow for the production of oils by local pharmacies that can then be sold to patients with prescriptions. The source of the cannabis for these pharmacies has yet to be determined.  

Under the new regulation, pharmacies will also be able to import new medicinal cannabis products, and not exclusively for patients with refractory epilepsies. The new products that will be allowed and the new list of qualifying conditions for cannabis have also not yet been decided. 

Although the Ministry did not announce a date when the regulatory decree would come into effect, members of the Council say it would not be long in coming. Barreto, who participated in the meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, said that although some questions were raised, the participants generally agreed on the advantages of the new regulation. 

“So, if there is a consensus between the ministry and the Council on the remaining details of the draft regulation, as there seems to be,” Barreto said, “it could see the light two months from now.”

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