Cannabis in South America and the US

Cannabis in South America and the US

The situation in the Americas: the continent where the first historical legalizations took place …

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But what about the legal situation in the region

Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize the recreational use of Indian hemp in 2013, helping to clear it and preparing the “legal-cultural ground” for the majority of States in South and Central America.

Currently, the law provides three options: the purchase of a “state cannabis” in the pharmacy, produced by a few companies with mixed capital without advertising and brand, for a maximum of forty grams per month, at a price of about one dollar per gram; the second option is associations created ad hoc, which can have a maximum of forty-five members and ninety-nine plants; the third legal option requires registration in a special register to grow it yourself, with a limit of six plants and almost half a kilo per crop.

Following it with various regulations starting from 2014 was Chile, where personal use had already been decriminalized for about a decade. The state has decriminalized the cultivation of six plants for this type of use and the possession of about half a kilo of the finished product. The case of Colombia is also worth mentioning. In 2012, the government decriminalized the possession of twenty grams of cannabis.

Three years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the cultivation of up to twenty plants was not a crime: events that led to more specific laws enacted in a still-evolving regulatory framework.

Medical use of cannabis from Argentina to Bolivia

In Argentina, a very elastic and still being defined medical use of the plant is foreseen: before 2017, it could only be used for epilepsy. However, medicine has now been extended without specific restrictions to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, including, for example, pain therapy.

This legal framework is reminiscent of the “Californian” system, already mentioned in connection with Israeli “fictitious” patients. The medical “maria” can be purchased in various forms (such as oils and creams) in pharmacies or be self-grown after obtaining a registered license.

In Brazil, in recent years, cannabis with a low THC content has been made legal, the one with the most active ingredient instead legal for medical and research uses. Playful use remains illegal but decriminalized. Legal approaches such as the Brazilian one are also found in Ecuador, Paraguay (the most important producer of illicit marijuana in the region since the 1960s), and Peru.

In Bolivia, where the former president and trade union leader cocalero Morales called for more freedom in the cultivation of the coca plant (the slogan was “yes to coca, no to cocaine”), any use of the other psychoactive plant remains illegal. However, some promote the medical use of cannabis and, last November, it was authorized to prescribe it for a single case: that of a girl with cerebral palsy.

Cannabis decriminalization throughout the American Continent

In Mexico, we find a situation that affinities with European Countries law and politics. Following some historic decisions that culminated in a ruling last June, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the rules that prohibit recreational cannabis, thus decriminalizing it and inducing parliament and government to legislate on the matter. 

As a result, while the medicinal version of the weed is legal in the country, it expects guidelines for what could be the most significant recreational ganja market on the planet.

In the Caribbean area, the legislative innovations of Jamaica stand out, a country of the British Commonwealth that gave birth to the Rastafari culture, torn apart by corruption and violence, fomented in recent decades by drug trafficking.

In addition, it is considered by many to be the quintessential home of ganja, a word of Indian derivation, also used in the official acts of the island, an etymological remnant of the colonial past as well as an informal synonym of marijuana throughout the globe.

Starting from 2015, possession of up to two ounces (almost sixty grams) of the precious inflorescences and the cultivation of up to five plants are considered minor violations of the law: they do not create a criminal record and carry a fine.

Exceptions are the possession and cultivation of those who practice a religious use (therefore formally recognized). The possibility of buying medical cannabis is also extended to tourists with a specific prescription. In recent years, new rules have been enacted to regulate both imports and exports of medicinal products, along with awareness campaigns on marijuana-related myths.

Canada legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, becoming the second country in the world to do this and the first of the “greats” of the G7: this sparked protests from Russia, which four years earlier came out of the “Group of eight” most economically advanced, precisely because of the conflict in Crimea. The protest was the alleged infringement of the international agreements already mentioned.

In the United States, for the second time in two years, a recent bill called MORE should remedy the American legal inconsistency. 

Several American states have legalized Indian hemp for recreational purposes (starting from California in the 1990s), which remains federally illegal. This situation creates various complications, the main one relating to the payment of money into the banking system: since cannabis is illegal under federal law, bank deposits of the proceeds are impossible.

However, the proposal could crash on the rock of the American upper house, where there would not be the numbers necessary for final approval.