Higher Than The Andes: Will Peru Legalize Marijuana?

Higher Than The Andes: Will Peru Legalize Marijuana?

Note: Since the original publication of this article, the Peruvian congress voted to legalize — 68 votes for, and only five votes against — medical marijuana, and Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed the bill into law. 

While North America might be far outpacing Latin America when it comes to legal marijuana, sentiment and policy across Latin America is slowly but surely trending toward legalization. Some form of legalization exists — or is right around the corner — in Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Argentina. Now, many are wondering: Will Peru legalize marijuana next?

The development stems from the police raid of a makeshift cannabis lab in February. The lab was run by mothers attempting to use the drug to treat their sick children, and the raid has sparked considerable public outcry and legislative efforts to legalize medical cannabis.

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President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski initially proposed the legislation upon learning about the mothers’ plight. Peru’s Congressional Committee on National Defense approved a bill to legalize the drug, which will now go before the full Peruvian Congress for debate. Congressman Alberto de Belaunde says, if approved, the legislation would legalize the production and importation of cannabis oil for the treatment of a wide variety of conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease. De Balaunde says that since a formal text of the initiative has yet to be released to the public, it is unclear whether smoking cannabis will also be allowed.

According to IPSOS (an opinion research firm), 65 percent of Peruvians now favor the legalization of medicinal marijuana — a number that is considerably greater than the rest of the region, and could lead to an affirmative answer to the question: Will Peru legalize marijuana?

A recent study by the International Journal of Drug Policy shows that more than 40 percent of respondents in some parts of the region support legalization, while other, more conservative areas are seeing far less support. Even in those areas where there is support for legalization, there is a gap between support for medical marijuana and support for legalizing the drug for recreational use. Peru mirrors that trend, as only 13 percent of Peruvians are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.

That said, Peru’s path toward legislation mirrors similar momentum elsewhere in the region:

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  • In 2013, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to legalize the consumption, sale, and cultivation of marijuana. The nation’s recreational users and medical patients can now grow marijuana at home or visit their local pharmacies for up to 40 grams of cannabis a month from local pharmacies.
  • Mexico’s Senate passed a medical marijuana bill last December, which is now pending approval from the lower house.
  • The personal possession and use of pot in Costa Rica is no longer considered a crime, and those growing marijuana for personal use are not subject to any criminal or economic penalties.
  • Both Chile and Colombia have legalized medical marijuana in recent years. Colombia is also getting ready to roll out a crop substitution program that would help farmers of illegal coca crops cultivate legal marijuana instead.

So, will Peru legalize marijuana next? We could find out by the end of 2017.