Cannabis production in Argentina, the challenge of improving the economy and guaranteeing the right to health
Four years ago, Argentina passed a law regulating the use of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. This law enables access to a better quality of life for many people and thus the use of cannabis has ceased to be a taboo and has become a production policy.
In 2017, Law 27350 on Medical and Scientific Research on the Medical Use of the Cannabis Plant and its Derivatives was enacted. Its purpose is to promote scientific research on the possible therapeutic uses of the cannabis plant and its derivatives, as well as to facilitate access to therapies for all users, providing support to families through clear regulations to secure access and ensure the support of health professionals.
The main provisions of the law were specified in its latest regulation, n° 883/2020, introduced by the Ministry of Health, which permitted access to derivatives of the cannabis plant through home production, social grow-ops and through the use of medical specialities, whether through national or foreign products or through the acquisition of magistral formulas. Article 8 of the Law states that those who wish to grow cannabis shall register in the Registry of the Cannabis Programme (REPROCANN), in order to obtain authorisation to produce cannabis for their own use, through a family member, a third person or an authorised civil organisation. Currently, 27,000 people are registered, some of whom have been approved, while others are awaiting authorisation.
Another key point of the decree is that the supply of cannabis is free of charge for people with no social security or private medical insurance.
In addition, this legal framework allows provinces, universities, organisations, and private individuals to submit projects to carry out activities related to research, production for local supply and/or the import of cannabis seeds through agreements with INTA or CONICET. Projects have been approved in Jujuy, San Juan, Chubut, La Rioja, Rio Negro, Misiones, Corrientes, and in different towns of the Province of Buenos Aires.
The increasingly legitimised use of cannabis for different pathologies, the incipient yet promising cannabis industry and the support and interest among the different provincial jurisdictions of our country led to the development of a project for the regulation of industrial hemp and medical cannabis. It was submitted by the Executive Power in the Economic and Social Council, with the endorsement of councillors, experts, legislators, and governors from different political parties. The Executive's bill was passed in the Senate’s and is now waiting to be discussed in the Commissions of Agriculture and Livestock and Budget and Finance of the Chamber of Deputies, to be later discussed in parliamentary session and become law.
The goals of the project for the regulation of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis are:
- To create an Agency to establish the regulatory framework for the chain of production, industrialization and commercialization of the cannabis plant, its seeds and its derived products for industrial and/or medicinal use, including scientific research.
- To promote employment and investment to improve the national economy and establish this industry.
- To guarantee access to health by satisfying the internal market.
- To establish Argentina as a regional leader in the production of products based on cannabis derivatives, and thus, generate exports.
- To promote productive diversification with an environmental perspective.
- To promote the development of regional economies.
- To incorporate small and medium producers as well as the cooperative sector.
The strong points that Argentina counts with in order to achieve these objectives are:
- Agricultural and industrial capacities and development.
- Scientific and technological development in general, in addition to the particular interest that has increased in recent years in relation to cannabis.
- The network of public and national laboratories present throughout the national territory.
- Provincial initiatives under development enabled by Law 27.350.
- The trajectory and knowledge of organizations of users, family members and growers.
The challenges to this project are the following:
- To achieve a harmonious growth between the different provincial jurisdictions, obtaining a federal balance.
- That the national industry achieves a leading role in productive development, including the entire production chain to generate added value.
- To guarantee the right to health through accessibility in the internal market of products at a reasonable price and quality.
- To protect and promote local employment.
- To regulate the associations and cooperatives that are working on the matter and to add new ones, incorporating the gender perspective and favoring those that are conformed by women who are currently organizing to produce cannabis derivatives and supply their families.
- To promote productive diversification, mainly serving territories that do not have economic developments and that promote roots as new opportunities for these populations.
- To improve and take care of environmental quality.
The advancements in regulation that our country has been achieving is part of the legal flexibility that is taking place worldwide, questioning the prohibitionist policies that were installed 50 years ago by international conventions to regulate and limit the use of the cannabis plant, among other plants grown in peripheral countries. For geopolitical and economic reasons, for the prevention of drug trafficking, for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry based on synthetics, whatever the reason may be, at a slow but constant pace, the laws are contemplating that the trend towards regulation is irreversible.
The cannabis industry is a commitment to the future, one that requires coordination between the different government spaces to generate regulations that guarantee speed in the authorization processes and provide transparency and monitoring of projects. In addition, it will be necessary to generate a balance between the growth of national and foreign companies that invest in this new industrial sector and to carry out technology transfer.
In a scenario of economic complexity due to the high external indebtedness left by the previous administration, the lack of growth, the increase in unemployment and therefore poverty due to the consequences left by the pandemic, it is essential that the government takes on concrete challenges that promote sovereignty and productive growth, while guaranteeing the care and access to health of our population, to recover and build the homeland we dream of.
Brenda Maier works in the health and social sciences field, specializing in cannabis regulatory policy. She has a degree in Social Work (UBA), a Master's degree in Epidemiology, Management and Health Policies (UNLa). She is a university professor (UBA/UNPaz) and a researcher at the Department of Health of the Cultural Center for Cooperation.