Latin American countries turn to marijuana legalization to win war on drugs
With the growing acceptance of medical marijuana in different parts of the world, the social stigma attached to it is slowly fading. In the United States, marijuana was originally a taboo topic. In fact, under federal law, it is still classified as an illegal substance. But when Colorado decriminalized marijuana use, it opened doors for other states to follow its lead. Today, 24 out of 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana in one form or another.
Numbers from Fortune revealed that legal cannabis sales jumped 17 percent, which is valued at $5.4 billion, in 2015 alone. This year, the numbers are expected to increase by 25 percent, reaching an estimated $6.7 billion in US sales. Medical cannabis companies including its startups such as Med-X largely contributed to the industry’s growth. Med-X is also the first medical cannabis company to run a Regulation A+ crowdfunding initiative. The company has produced all-natural products in the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes.
While much of the debate, negotiations, and protests are centered on the United States, especially with the upcoming presidential elections, many have not realized that the South American nations have had a long history on pursuing its legalization. Mexico remains to be the top producer of marijuana in Latin America while Chile has opened the biggest medical marijuana farm. Uruguay and Colombia signed into law, the decriminalization of marijuana use.
This small South American nation of 3.3 million people is a global pioneer in terms of efforts to legalize marijuana sales. After a decade-long undertaking, the government was finally convinced, and in December 2013, Uruguay legalized the production of marijuana. Under the law registered users, or anyone above the age of 18, are allowed to buy up to 40 kg of marijuana each month in three ways: by growing it at home, accessing it from pharmacies or in “cannabis clubs” only.
There are also certain parameters regulating its use and sales. For instance, private producers are granted licenses for large-scale farming given the regulated distribution and controlled price of one dollar per gram, reported by The Guardian. Private individuals, on the other hand, are allowed to grow up to six plants only. In the case of larger amounts, individuals can only grow them in “cannabis clubs,” as long as these quantities are not for sale.
In May 2014, former president Jose Mujica signed a historic regulation which set Uruguay on the map of being the first country in the world to legalize marijuana sales. Today, the country is also set to test the world’s first state-commissioned marijuana for recreational use, even if previous regulations are beset with protests and hesitations among pharmacies.
A long history of the fight against drugs has been associated with Colombia. According to Drug Reform Laws, various policies have been clearly underway, such as the setup of the Advisory Commission on Drug Policy in January 2013, stating that drug users should not be criminalized. In May 2015, guidelines for a new approach to drug policy within the country stated 10 recommendations such as the regulation of medical marijuana, help reduce the risk to consumers and modernize the National Statute on Drugs and Psychoactive Substances.
A year after Uruguay legalized recreational marijuana, Colombia followed suit. In December 2015, The Guardian reported that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree legalizing growth and sale of medical marijuana. The Guardian commented that this new approach to medical marijuana could benefit 400,000 Colombians suffering from epilepsy and other ailments.
According to studies conducted by the Epilepsy Foundation, marijuana contains chemicals known as Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This chemical based on individuals reports from children with epilepsy, who have tried marijuana, showed improvements marked by less seizure frequency. Santos reiterated that new rules do not apply to recreational use but only for medical marijuana and scientific studies.
The year 2015 also marked a groundbreaking change for Mexico as it opened its doors to legalize marijuana in certain forms. Under a court’s criminal chamber ruling, four individuals were granted the right to grow and distribute marijuana for personal consumption and its prohibition was a violation of human rights. Reports from The New York Times stated that Mexico’s decision may just aggravate the current marijuana debates in Latin America. It even raised questions on the effectiveness of imprisoning drug users in the country.
Mexico is known for having the strictest drug laws in Latin America. However, with the growing legalization in different parts of the United States, questions are being raised within the nation regarding approaches rather than its implementation.
Mexico’s ambassador to Austria and chief diplomat on narcotics policies Luis Alfonso de Alba told the UN’s Commission in Vienna that review of Mexico’s drug policy concludes this month. Further reports from Vice News revealed that conclusions would be deliberated before a special session of the UN General Assembly on drugs (UNGASS) in New York.
In light of the growing acceptance of medical marijuana, Chile welcomed Latin America’s largest medical marijuana farm earlier this year. Located in a small town of Colbun, the plantation, according to NBC will be able to treat about 4,000 patients from across Chile.
Another important decision for the marijuana industry was signed in 2015 by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. In an LA Times report, the measure removes marijuana from the list of dangerous drugs, which raises hope among cancer patients and other victims of illnesses that require pain relief. However, even if marijuana consumption has been decriminalized in the country, patients outspoken about needing the substance for pain relief still suffer discrimination.
The year 2015 was monumental for medical marijuana in Latin America as several regulations and measures were signed legalizing its use. As more countries and states pursue medical marijuana legalization, the industry also experienced groundbreaking leaps in revenue in 2015.
Coupled with the increasing regulations on legalizing its use, such numbers prove very attractive to investors. Innovations from medical cannabis companies such as vaporizers, edibles, and capsules contributed to this staggering growth says CNBC.