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Chile Moves Toward Cannabis Decriminalization

Cheers broke out in the public gallery Tuesday as Chile’s Chamber of Deputies voted 68 to 39 with five abstentions to decriminalize cannabis—including a provision for cultivation.

This reform of the country’s anti-drug statute would “depenalize” the possession of up to 10 grams (0.35 ounce) of marijuana and the growing of up to six plants. The bill makes reference to recreational, medical and spiritual use of the herb. To become law, it still has to be studied by a health committee before the Chamber of Deputies votes again on each specific provision. It will next pass to the Senate and then to the desk of President Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to approve it.

Earlier this year, Chile’s capital Santiago became the site of Latin America’s first medical marijuana cultivation project, which raised interest in the decriminalization proposal.

“It is a historic day for medicinal users who wish to stop being persecuted, and be able to access a medicine that they can grow in their gardens,” Communist Party lawmaker Karol Cariola, who is part of Bachelet’s leftist coalition, told reporters after the decrim measure was approved.

Ana Maria Gazmuri, president of the Daya Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees the medical cultivation project, also expressed enthusiasm about the new measure.

“We’re celebrating the overwhelming approval of this project,” she told the Associated Press. “This project is on the right path, and we’re optimistic that it will be passed quickly. It should go through the health commission in a month at most, and ideally it should be approved by the Senate in two months.”

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