Late last week, Peru’s Congress enacted a law to regulate the use of medical cannabis. With just three abstentions, five votes against, and an overwhelming 67 votes in support of it, lawmakers approved the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of medical marijuana for both therapy and intensive study. Congress members Tania Pariona and Alberto de Belaunde from Peruvians for Change led the initiative.
After thorough analysis and revision of the law, as well as gaining President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s approval, the bill is on schedule to come into effect in 60 days. According to Belaunde from the government party, the law does not legalize marijuana for recreational use, nor does it make medical pot freely or easily available.
The drug will only be accessible to patients listed in a registry with chronic pain or terminal illnesses. Officials say that those with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, or cancer will benefit most, among others. “Cannabis that is used for recreational purposes has a THC level that is much higher than the medicinal one,” Belaunde explained.
He also said, “In addition, the way by which the medical cannabis is consumed is through oil, ointments and derivatives, different from recreational use, which is most often done with cigarettes.” Congress received the bill in February; just a few days after Peru’s National Police busted a drug lab run by Buscando Esperanza in Lima that was manufacturing cannabis oil for medical patients.
Because of the new law, officials in the country are expecting the Public Prosecutor’s Office to drop all charges of drug trafficking against the organization. Back in September, hundreds of the bill’s most ardent supporters marched on Congress, with popular comedian and actor Carlos Alcántara being vocal among them.
Alcántara made an appearance before the Congressional Defense Commission, where he told the story, which began 17 years ago, of his using cannabis oil to help treat his autistic child’s schizophrenia, seizures, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. He explained at length his supportive stance on the legalization of marijuana for patients in Peru. However, many consider the new law incomplete.
Buscando Esperanza published videos about cannabis and its benefits on its Facebook page. Dorothy Santiago, one of its founders, says that even though the law promises a massive breakthrough for the country of Peru, it is simply not enough. She said outright, “We feel dissatisfied with the law because it does not prioritize the patient’s needs.”
Santiago went on to explain, “They are authorizing the imports that do not benefit us, because only the wealthy will be able to afford these benefits, as usual.” Although she believes in the importance of scientific study, she does not understand why pharmacists should have that responsibility to the exclusion of everyone else.
“They will not be able to help all illnesses,” Santiago said. “In the case of my son, he takes an oil with three types of strains. I will not be able to go to the pharmacy and say: ‘Prepare me cannabis with these three types of strains.’” According to her, Buscando Esperanzawill continue its growing and production of marijuana-based medicines unabated, as it already knows what works best.
“My son just turned six and barely a month ago could say ‘Ma,’ Santiago said justifying her decision to medicate her child with cannabis. “Now he says ‘Mama’ and is already walking. We cannot go backward with him.” Thousands of other patients across Peru feel the same, and time will tell how or even if lawmakers adjust the bill to accommodate all of them.