Argentina’s president happily engages in debate about cannabis legalization

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, is diving into the subject of cannabis. Fernández, who assumed office on December 10, 2019, recently told reporters that he is not shy to talk about the legalization of cannabis.

While the plant remains illegal in the South American country, it has already been decriminalized. Now, further discussions are erupting on the topic of cannabis legalization and the drug’s safety in comparison with other legal substances.

Fernández has urged lawmakers, policy makers and industry lobbyists to launch a hypocrisy-free debate. According to Argentina’s president, the goal “is to put an end to hypocrisy.” While he described cannabis as “harmful,” he also emphasized the dangers associated with alternative and legal substances, like tobacco and alcohol.

“Tobacco kills with cancer, and alcohol degrades human beings. If these two are legal, explain to me why the other side is illegal,” he told reporters. “Alcohol causes more damage among children and nobody complains about this.”

Cannabis trafficking and consumption in Argentina

Argentina’s President feels slightly perturbed at the thought of traffickers who, he says, tend to carry out their business in a dangerous fashion so as to steer clear of prosecution.

Fernández says that illegal cannabis trafficking problems extend far beyond Argentina. On the bright side, he believes that trafficking could potentially be curbed with legalization. Nonetheless, he remains cautious about the plant’s overall safety.

“As I promoted the abortion law, everyone is trying to come onto me with the [cannabis] issue. Still, it is also true that [cannabis] is harmful, that like any other drug, it generates health damages,” reads a tweet posted by Fernández on August 12.

Argentina’s president also touched upon the topic of cannabis consumption, stating that “some things do not make sense to discuss, such as the fact that [cannabis] consumption has expanded,” and “that many young people consume it.”

While Fernández acknowledges that this is a slight cause for concern, he is even more concerned about the health risks that youngsters face when they consume cannabis from the unregulated black market.

Drug laws in Argentina

Recreational cannabis in Argentina is decriminalized for personal consumption, so long as the plant is enjoyed in small amounts and in private spaces; this is based on a 2009 Supreme Court ruling. 

Conversely, medical cannabis in Argentina is a rapidly evolving market. Legalization occurred in Chubut on September 23, 2016, followed by Santa Fe on November 30, 2016. A decree published by Fernández in November 2020 permitted licensed pharmacies to legally sell cannabis-based creams, oils and various other plant-derived products.

What’s more, the decree makes it compulsory for public and private insurance companies to provide prescription-wielding patients with coverage for cannabis-derived medications. The president’s authorization led to the expansion of a 2017 law that legalized the medical use of CBD cannabis oil.

Looking to the future, more discussions regarding cannabis legalization in Argentina are expected to be heard from Fernández and other lawmakers.