Argentina’s President Expands Medical Cannabis, Allows Home Grow

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Argentina is the latest country to expand access to cannabis.

While the country opened the door to a very limited medical cannabis program in 2017, President Alberto Fernández issued a decree this week to expand the program by allowing patients to grow their own cannabis at home, as long as they obtain a license to do so. In addition, patients who have a prescription from their doctor will be allowed to buy cannabis products like oils and topicals at pharmacies. 

As Cannabis Wire reported in July, this change was months in the making. “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 that helped shape the new regulations, told Cannabis Wire at the time.

And, in a move that goes further than most jurisdictions that have legalized medical cannabis, the decree directs private insurance providers to cover the cost of prescribed medical cannabis products purchased by patients. The government also plans to cover costs for those without insurance that would do so.

Former President Mauricio Macri established a medical cannabis program that was so restrictive that only patients with epilepsy could legally access cannabis oil, and those patients, experiencing issues with access to medical cannabis, turned to the illicit market for supply. 

This created “barriers” to access, the decree noted, that led patients to cultivate their own cannabis to create oil. Those seeking “the possibility of alleviating pain” were pushed to take on “the risk of being convicted.” 

The decree also pointed to “international” examples where “a framework of safety and quality” reduced the risks inherent in an “uncontrolled market.”

The United Nations is voting in December on World Health Organization recommendations to downschedule cannabinoids, which could prompt more expansion of programs for medical use. At an October United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting of the 63rd Session in Vienna, Austria, calls for more research also arose. 

The United States delegate, Patt Prugh, an attorney-adviser in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser, said during the meeting that it’s the body’s “duty” to ensure that the international scheduling of cannabis and cannabis resin “accurately reflects the state of science,” adding that one main reason that cannabis should be moved is to “stimulate research.” 

Likewise, Fernández’ decree emphasizes the importance of recognizing scientific advances on cannabis and cannabinoids, and also changes to the medical cannabis landscape throughout the world. 

“It is necessary to recognize that the development of research and scientific evidence in the medicinal, therapeutic, and palliative use of cannabis and its derivatives is in full swing in the world, which forces us to follow the advances of science,” Fernández wrote in the decree. 

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