An interesting report just in via CBD Testers…
With a new constitution being written, it’s quite possible that we’ll soon see legalized recreational cannabis in Chile.
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Chile and cannabis
Right now cannabis is illegal for production and public use in Chile, but is a widely consumed drug for both medical and recreational purposes. Chile has the highest per capita cannabis usage in all of South America according to 2019 statistics on Latin American cannabis consumption.
Drug regulation in Chile is governed by Ley de Drogas from 2005. In 2008, the laws were made more harsh because of illicit cannabis flowing into the country. Punishments for possession and use increased to that of drugs like cocaine and heroin. For a country that’s pretty cool with the plant, this caused a lot of tension, and this tension led to change starting around 2014. That year, the government loosened its grip, and began allowing the cultivation of cannabis for medical research purposes. It took until the end of 2015 for president Michelle Bachelet to officially sign into law a medical cannabis policy, which allows prescribed use.
The medical legislation opened the sale of medical cannabis from pharmacies, and reclassified cannabis as a soft drug. It went a step further than a standard medical legalization, stating adult Chileans are able to grow up to six plants for “medical, recreational or spiritual reasons”, which means the medical legalization, also worked as a decriminalization measure for personal use. It is legal to grow, sell, and import cannabis for medical purposes. One stipulation is that doctors who prescribe cannabis without a good reason can face from 5-15 years in prison, and fines up to USD 28,000. This is the same for establishments that provide medications.
Cannabis goes pretty far back in Chile, considering cannabis did not originate in the general region. Hemp farming may have started as early as 1545 AD in the Quillota Valley. At that time, the hemp fiber was used for the army and for ships mainly. In terms of today, according to a study by the University of London in conjunction with the Universidad Andrés Bello, 48.2% of Chileans support legalization, and 40% have tried cannabis at some point. Whereas the global average for starting cannabis is about 14-15 years of age, in Chile, it’s actually 12. Only approximately 6.2% of the population think that cannabis can be dangerous. Compared to other Latin American countries in the study, Chile had a higher per capita use rate, and a lower rate of negative attitude toward it.
What’s the deal with a new constitution?
It’s not every day that a country throws out its constitution in favor of making a new one, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Chile right now. Growing social inequalities led to major protests in 2019-2020, called ‘Estallido Social’. Protests and demonstrations were held all over the country, and particularly in metropolitan areas. Reasons for the demonstrations included: a raise in metro fares in Santiago, higher costs of living, general corruption, inequality, and privatization. Protests resulted in a lot of damage to the public infrastructure of the country, with this time period considered the worst civil unrest since the military dictatorship of Pinochet ended in 1990.
All of this resulted in an agreement between political parties to establish a new set of laws to govern the country. On May 15-16, 2021, the people of Chile got to vote for the people who would write their new constitution, an ability the population did not have in the past. It was decided that 17 seats would be reserved for indigenous parties, something that also never happened in Chile before.
Chile’s old constitution, which is on its way out, isn’t actually all that old, going back to 1980 when Chile was being ruled by the Pinochet dictatorship. A dictatorship which ended 10 years later in 1990. Though it has been amended over the years, it clearly is still too authoritarian for Chilean comfort.
In this last constitutional convention election, Chile showed its desire to move left, electing 104 out of 155 delegates from liberal parties, whether left-wing, independent, or indigenous. This according to Daya Fundación (a pro-cannabis organization) director Ana María Gazmuri, who also went on to say that “neither the word cannabis nor marijuana will appear anywhere in the new Constitution.”
If cannabis isn’t mentioned, how will new constitution mean recreational cannabis in Chile?
Though cannabis is not likely to be mentioned directly in the constitution, how it’s treated will be directly related to what’s in the constitution, and the wording it uses. Chile’s new constitution will be drafted by this new convention. If the constitution works to ensure guarantees to health as a right, providing all alternatives including natural traditions, this could legalize cannabis.
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