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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill legalizing the use of cannabis oil and other marijuana derivatives for medicinal purposes, and setting up a regulatory framework for the state to prescribe and distribute them to patients.

The legislation approved by senators Wednesday also creates a medical marijuana research program at the Health Ministry, which must “guarantee free access” to cannabis oil and other derivatives to patients who join the program. The legislation was passed by the Chamber of Deputies earlier.

“In history, the big things always come in small steps,” said Valeria Salech, president of a private pro-medical cannabis group called Mama Cultiva Argentina, which has argued that cannabis can radically change the quality of life for children suffering everything from HIV to epilepsy.


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Her group is already lobbying to push the legislation further, to permit the families of patients to grow their own cannabis.

Under the new legislation, government agencies will be authorized to grow cannabis for research purposes and to produce cannabis oil and derivatives for patients. The state can import cannabis derivatives until they can be produced locally.

The Washington, DC-based Drug Policy Alliance cheered the move.


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“It’s heartening to see Argentina prioritizing accessibility by providing medical marijuana at no cost to patients,” says Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill was long championed by families and patients whose suffering has been alleviated with medical marijuana, and it’s a relief they’ve finally been heard.”

The group noted,  however, that home cultivation remains illegal, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 15 years when intended for commercial purposes and up to two years if authorities deem the cultivation was for personal use.

Other nations in Latin America are also debating allowing medical uses of marijuana. But Uruguay is the only country in South America that has legalized recreational cannabis.