While it may sound “old hat” to cannabis industry experts in North America, the government of Argentina has just made a bold move that will allow patients to access medical cannabis in a way not seen in most reforming jurisdictions elsewhere. Namely, the Argentine Ministry of Health has authorized specially licensed and permitted nonprofits to grow cannabis for medical patients.
Each NGO will be allowed to provide cannabis to up to 150 people, cultivate both in and outdoors and register multiple properties for the purpose of the same. Patients will also have to participate in a special registry called the Registry of the Cannabis Program (REPROCANN). Nonprofits who register more than 150 patients will also be allowed to request authorization for the extension of these patient counts to the National Program for the study and research of medicinal cannabis.
Resolution 673 modifies an Argentinian resolution passed in March of last year which established and regulated the operation of the REPROCANN program and created the basic parameters of controlled cultivation for medical users.
Each nonprofit may cultivate up to nine plants per patient and will be allowed up to 6m2 for indoor cultivation and up to 15m2 for outdoor cultivation for this purpose. When transported by vehicle, up to six bottles of 30ml of cannabis extract or up to 40 grams of dried flowers will be allowed by authorized persons.
The program has been set up to simplify the guaranteed access to treatments for medical cannabis users and allow third parties to provide the same for registered patients.
Cannabis Reform in Argentina
Cannabis has been decriminalized in Argentina for personal use since the Supreme Court ruled on the same in 2009 and further decided that personal use was a constitutional right. Public consumption is generally tolerated. Consumption for medical purposes had not been regulated until now. Cultivation, selling and transporting cannabis however, remained illegal.
In March 2017, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of CBD oil. In late November 2020, President Alberto Fernandez signed a decree allowing the self-cultivation of cannabis and subsidized medical access.
What Argentina is Getting Right
While hardly the most prominent cannabis reform program globally, it appears that the Argentine government is taking a page out of other reform programs that have been implemented elsewhere—as well as what has not worked.
For example, in both the US and Canada, patient collectives similar to those in Argentina became the basis of the legalizing commercial industry. However, in places like Holland, certainly until the formal national cultivation trial kicks in next year, and currently in Spain, the growth and cultivation of crops for coffeeshops and clubs remains largely unregulated. Transport between the cultivation site and the consumption and sales location remains a hazardous affair as the entire process is still in a gray area.
Beyond this, the idea of formalizing patient collectives has not caught on in places like Europe. At present, only Switzerland has plans to implement cannabis clubs that are federally regulated—although the first dispensation of the same will still occur in pharmacies.
The entire discussion of patient collectives and nonprofits is completely off the table in Germany, now in the process of establishing guidelines for recreational use (and unbelievably delaying the decriminalization process). Patients are still largely left to fend for themselves in a maze of bureaucratic red tape that starts with the reluctance of doctors to prescribe cannabis extracts and medicines (and even more so cannabis flower) and the repeated stymieing of these requests by insurance companies and the state-run regulator which makes the final approvals.
When they do not get this, many patients (who do not suddenly stop being sick) turn to the black market, which is dangerous for patients on both the quality side and of course, facing criminal sanctions if they are caught with more than about five to 15 grams of weed (depending on where they are caught).