The Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has decided to do something radical. Namely, obtain public comments on their next version of pending cannabis legislation before they actually pass it. This legislation amends the law passed last year which allows patient groups or collectives in Peru to legally grow their own supplies by further defining the right.
Medical use of cannabis and cannabinoid-based drugs has been legal here since November 2017. However, after the government updated parts of the law they received heavy criticism from advocates who said that patients still did not have enough access. This version will also incorporate guidelines on the artisanal production and processing of the plant by patient organizations.
It may sound like semantics, but this is actually a very important step.
The Home Grow Dispute, in Peru and Beyond
No matter how much authorities just don’t like the idea, let alone parts of the established corporate cannabis industry (which has also opposed the idea directly in places like Canada), the right to grow at home and distribute medical cannabis grown in patient collectives will not die.
During the 1980s and 1990s, for example, when AIDS was still a death sentence, patient collectives began operating in major cities. The biggest “threat” to their existence has in fact been legalization.
Now as the cannabis revolution spreads globally, the same issues are arising repeatedly.
In Germany, for example, despite initially allowing patients to obtain specific cultivation licenses from BfArM, this right was eliminated with the legislation passed in 2017, mandating insurer reimbursement when prescribed by a doctor.
That right is about to be at least partially reinstated if the rumors are to be believed. It is widely expected that home grow at least for “recreational users” will be a part of the legalization legislation now being drafted by the German Ministry of Health. How the Germans will deal with patient collectives is still an open question—but one that clearly makes sense given the pushback from the major insurers about coverage for the past five years.
How to regulate that, however, is still very much undecided, just about everywhere. For example, in South Africa, these issues are very much front and center as the government struggles to pass its first cannabis legalization bill to create structure for the commercial production of cannabis.
In countries like Peru, much as in South Africa, with a less robust public health system than European countries, there is less competition from the established industry, let alone pharmaceutical companies. People there cannot afford medication. Cannabis is just one of them.
Allowing people to grow at home will significantly alleviate demand on the health system if not give critically ill people access to medicine they otherwise would not have.
There is, in reality, no way to prevent patients from organizing to obtain home grow from somewhere—even if they cannot grow their own. The conditions that this drug treats effectively are still on the edges of being treated effectively with more conventional medications. Chronically or terminally ill people are rarely deterred by a still jail sentence.
The Re-Awakening of Patient Collectives
Organized into patient collectives or not, the issue is coming back, and in a big way, as Europe proceeds with legalization. Malta dipped its toe into the recreational discussion last year by allowing home grow. Luxembourg looks ready to do the same this year—and it is clear that Germany will have to consider these options.
Beyond this? In both Spain and Holland, there already is a defacto “home grow” movement that is, at least in Holland, being increasingly regulated out of existence—at least formally. But it won’t last long.
Indeed, in the U.K. recently, where medical cannabis legislation has repeatedly stalled, a patient who operated a collective and delivered cannabis oil to literally hundreds of patients was just given a slap on the wrist by authorities after his grateful clients testified on his behalf.
Peru, in other words, may be on the right, and potentially only, track to deal with this issue.