The dilemma now faced by several U.S. states concerning whether “medical marijuana” need include actual herbaceous cannabis is about to hit the South American nation of Peru. Law 982/2016 is advancing through the country’s Congress and is headed for an imminent floor vote.
The push for the new law was launched after a police raid in Lima earlier this year on a collective known as Buscando Esperanza (Seeking Hope)—made up mostly of mothers who were producing cannabis oils for their offspring suffering from cancer, epilepsy and the like.
The bill cleared the congressional Defense Committee, which is concerned with internal security, in mid-September.
The law would modify Article 299 of Peru’s Penal Code, removing penalties for personal possession of “cannabis derivatives” when used for medical purposes. Several users and advocates have testified before Congress in its support.
But controversy is already emerging over the word “derivatives.”
After the bill cleared the Defense Committee, Alfonso Zavaleta, a pharmacologist with the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and a member of the National Medicine Academy, was interviewed by Lima’s El Comercio about the pending law.
Asked about the difference between medical and recreational cannabis, he responded: “The recreational is smoked, the medicinal is plant extracts that are processed in a pharmaceutical laboratory, to obtain balanced elements that do not cause intoxication.”
However, he did acknowledge the analgesic properties of THC, as well as the various medical applications of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD.
A related controversy surrounds whether personal cultivation will be allowed, or if the canna-medications will all be imported.
On September 24, Buscando Esperanza and supporters held a rally in Lima’s Plaza San Martín, where they were actually joined by Alberto de Belaunde, the leading lawmaker of Peru’s ruling party, Peruanos Por el Kambio. De Belaunde embraced their demand for a speedy passage of Law 982. And among the chants at the march was, “¡Autocultivo es la solución, por eso le decimos no a la importación!” (Homegrown is the solution, we say no to importation!). Peruvian cannabis advocates will be watching closely as this historic legislation is finalized in the coming weeks.