JONATHAN FRANKLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Santiago, Chile – Medical marijuana advocates won a huge victory in Chile in November as the regional agriculture authority approved a 6,900-plant marijuana farm and a team of volunteers planted 20 strains of high-potency marijuana seeds.
The cannabis farm, located in central Chile near the town of Colbun was placed under tight security from Chileancarabinerosand oversight from government agricultural authorities. The exact location of the plantation was kept secret as activists await the harvest next April when the marijuana buds will be converted to cannabis oil and then distributed to an estimated 4,000 patients throughout Chile.
Under an agreement between the Daya Foundation, the University of Valparaiso and the prestigious Knop Laboratory, the oils will also be used in longer-term clinical trials.
“This is Latin America’s largest ever” medical marijuana plantation said Ana Maria Gazmuri, a former soap opera star and president of the Daya Foundation which spearheaded the campaign to obtain permission for the legal cannabis farm. “We are very pleased and moved that we have been able to transform the perception…and the citizen’s understanding of things cannabis,” said Gazmuri. “Behind all this work and effort is the absolute commitment to be active agents in the relief of human suffering.”
Local mayor Pedro Fernandez was also enthusiastic as he noted that “there will be two hundred patients from the [local] community who will receive free doses.”
Throughout Chile an estimated 20-25 municipalities have voted in favor of the plan and submitted applications to both defray costs of the operation and receive oil for several hundred patients from each participating community. Support for the measure has ranged from Karol Cariola, the wildly popular communist member of congress to Rodolfo Carter formerly of the extreme right-wing UDI Party.
Despite overwhelming approval from the Chilean public – public opinion polls estimated that nearly 70% approve legalizing marijuana for medical purposes – the socialist government of Michelle Bachelet has sought to scale back a bill in Congress that would authorize recreational marijuana plantations of 6 plants per household and personal possession of 10 grams.
Karla Rubilar, a member of parliament and doctor, accused the government of abandoning the recreational cannabis law and called for immediate approval of the law that she has sponsored but which remains stalled in legislative limbo.
While the Chilean government debates whether to fully permit recreational marijuana or solely regulate medical marijuana, groups of Chilean mothers throughout the nation have organized cannabis clubs with names like “Mama Cultiva” [Grow Moms] and “Gotas de Amor” [Drops of Love] in a desperate search for cannabis-based solutions to combat grave childhood ailments.
Although Chilean police and health authorities have shown wide tolerance for individuals who use cannabis-based oils as a remedy for epilepsy and chronic pain, enforcement of marijuana laws continues to be erratic. In late November a newborn infant in a public hospital was taken away from her mother immediately after birth when the mom volunteered to health officials that she had smoked marijuana during pregnancy.
While the national health service and local courts upheld the move a storm of protest erupted at what many saw as overreaction as the measure not only prohibited the mother from nursing but also limited her contact with the newborn to just two and a half hours a day.
The Chilean re-evaluation of marijuana laws is being repeated throughout Latin America. Despite a history of severe laws prohibiting marijuana use, in just the past several months numerous governments have made moves to overhaul the shape and regulations of a legal marijuana market.
In November, the Mexican Supreme Court declared support for individuals to grow and distribute marijuana and Colombian President Manuel Santos indicated he was on the verge of signing a bill to legalize medical marijuana. Pharmacies in Uruguay are preparing to distribute legal marijuana to registered patients where marijuana will be sold for the discounted price of $1 per gram.
Given the widespread evidence that prohibition and the Reagan-era “war on drugs” have failed, the rise of an alternative drug policy in Latin America may well bring relief from the seemingly non-stop rise of organized criminal cartels and subsequent blood bath provoked by rival gangs fighting for profits. As a grow shop in Chile proudly proclaimed in an advertisement, “Keep Calm and Drive the Dealers out of business.”