Last week, Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed a bill to legalize the use of cannabis products and derivatives to treat medical conditions such as cancer and epilepsy. PPK, as the president is popularly known, hailed the law as opening a new chapter in his country’s approach to the herb.
“Here we are breaking with a myth,” he said, referring to marijuana’s reputation as a dangerous drug. “Peru is turning several pages, moving toward modernity.”
He especially congratulated the congress members who pushed for the law, naming Alberto De Belaunde, Tania Pariona and Gloria Montenegro, who all attended the signing ceremony. Also in attendance were members of the collective Buscando Esperanza (Seeking Hope), made up of mothers who need medicinal cannabis for their ailing children.
Three associated with the collective—including one of the mothers, Ana Alvarez—are facing prison time over the February bust of a grow site in a Lima apartment. Their case, and the wave of public sympathy it sparked, provided the impetus for the legal initiative.
But PPK was also accompanied by his Minister of Health, Fernando D’Alessio, and stressed that “the government is in charge of supervising the operation of the law.”
The Ministry of Public Health will maintain a registry of patients entitled to access cannabis products, as well as the pharmacies, universities and laboratories permitted to handle the plant.
With PKK’s signature, Peru’s Congress has 60 days to work out a regulation regime for the law. Activists will be closely watching to see if this will include actual provisions for access to herbaceous cannabis, something the text of the law is ambiguous on.
With the enactment of the law, Peru joins Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico as Latin American countries that have approved medical marijuana programs. Uruguay, of course, passed a general legalization bill in 2013—which many activists hope will be the next step in Peru.