Statement of support for state regulation of the use of medical cannabis

Joint statement by the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación (CCC) and the Centro de Estudios de la Cultura Cannábica (CECCa).

The Chamber of Deputies Committees on Internal Security, Social Action and Public Health and Criminal Legislation will hold a joint meeting tomorrow to discuss the legal framework for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Argentina.

Enabling access to cannabis for therapeutic and palliative use involves developing policies that put human beings, health and human rights first.

Indeed, international human rights treaties recognize the right to health and compel state-parties to guarantee this. It is specified in the Report of the Special Rapporteur as the right of all people to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health and to receive the most suitable alternative therapy in order to optimize beneficial outcomes and reduce possible adverse effects to a minimum.

Even the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and successive Conventions, despite their subordinate status to human rights treaties, have never obligated members to criminalize access to cannabis for therapeutic use. The Convention’s preamble recognizes that “the medical use of narcotics continues to be indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering and that adequate provision must be made to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs for such purposes.”

Argentina’s National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology (Anmat) reported on 7 October via press release that over the last few months they have received a large number of inquiries and applications for entry of Cannabis Oil into the country. As a result of the increase in demand, it authorized importation for the treatment of refractory epilepsy only, indicating that the decision is based on the fact that said pathology is the only one for which existing studies suggest real therapeutic benefits. This decision aggravated already problematic access to this product due to legal, economic and moral barriers posed to the improvements produced by its use, based solely on social prejudice without any factual and/or scientific basis. This provision now also limits and obstructs access in the case of other pathologies where cannabis may be put to therapeutic, medicinal and/or palliative use for pain, such as fibromyalgia, cancer and multiple sclerosis, among other pathologies.

In countries like Canada, Israel and Holland, there has been recognized scientific evidence that proves the benefits of its use. In our region several countries already have legal frameworks that allow access to medical cannabis, even for a larger group of pathologies or without restriction of them.

Experience worldwide has shown that that personal, supportive or collective cultivation is one of the fundamental pillars in the response to users and their families. Because the mere importation of a certain product is not enough, given that that people and pathologies are different and thus respond in different ways. Individual, supportive or collective cultivation can yield several strains that apply to a wide range of treatments or replace other strains when the person acquires tolerance to any of them. Nor is it sufficient to promise that there will be national production, because we know that this takes time, not only the plants themselves but also the wheels of bureaucracy that are out of synch with the urgent needs of affected persons.

State provision as the only route of access could prove inadequate due to the budget it would require; it is also necessary to mention the barriers to access to health care – both geographic and cultural – that hinder the development of treatments, and that cases like these could even lead to the stigmatization of users and their families over the use of this substance.

Our country’s legal framework enables the development of research to explore the potential use of cannabis as a medicine, but the prevailing model of prohibitionist policies makes its use impossible.

Today mothers, fathers, other family members and users are forced to find appropriate treatment to improve their families’ quality of life in a framework of illegality, with all the risks that entails.

We support the enactment of a law to regulate access to cannabis through national production or import as well as individual, supportive or collective cultivation. This ensures the exercise of the right to health, prevents criminalization and protects the people affected, their families and their primary groups from being linked to the illegal drug trade.

We, the undersigned, request the effective exercise of the human rights of families and users of medical cannabis, through the decriminalization of the possession, cultivation, possession of seeds, production or extraction of oil or any other derivative for medicinal therapeutic and/or palliative purposes.

Sign at