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Argentina celebrates new ‘patient-focused’ regulations



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New regulations which allow patients to grow their own medical cannabis have been ‘widely celebrated’ in Argentina.

Last week Argentina announced new regulations authorising the self-cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

The decree, issued by President Alberto Fernández on Thursday 12 November, also forces insurance providers to cover cannabis-based medical products which have been prescribed by a doctor.

Patients or caregivers will be permitted to grow their own medication providing they have a doctor’s prescription and are registered with a patient registry. It has also expanded the list of qualifying conditions, with clinicians allowed to decide if a patient would benefit from cannabis-based medicinal products.

Medical cannabis was legalised in Argentina in 2017, but until now there has been no clear path to access, with only limited patients able to access medications through a permit or court exemption.

Advocacy group Mamá Cultiva Argentina, which is made up of mothers of children with severe health conditions and campaigned for the law change in 2017, have been praised for leading the fight to see these new regulations brought in.

Javier Hasse, a cannabis-focused reporter, and managing director of Benzinga Cannabis, who lives in Buenos Aires, said the regulations were long-awaited and had been ‘widely celebrated’.

“People have been waiting on these regulations for years and I commend the government on the regulations and for putting patients first to ensure what is relatively immediate access to cannabis,” he said.

“A programme that focuses so much on patients and providing affordable access is quite unique – I don’t think there are many other countries which focus so heavily on patients over commercialisation.”

There has been a big movement for self-cultivation in Argentina, particularly following the coronavirus pandemic, when quarantine rules left some people with no access to medication.

“The pandemic underlined the need for legal self-cultivation because many people who turned to the illicit market to get medical cannabis products were left without medication,” said Javier.

“There are diverse reasons why someone may prefer to grow their own. Cannabis medicines can be expensive, especially when they still need to be imported, they’re hard to access and the supply is not always steady.

“Some people just want to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies and growing your own and gives you those kinds of assurances.”

He added: “Legalising self-cultivation does not mean that everyone will be cultivating – some people want to be able to go buy it at a pharmacy, some people want to grow it their own.”

Javier is confident that the country has a promising future in the medical cannabis sector, with estimates placing the market at around $40 million in sales by 2024 – and some projecting that it could produce up to US$1 billion in exports over the next 10 years.

But this depends on how the state decides to issue licenses and commercial regulations being brought in.

“I would love to see Argentina thrive on the commercial opportunity, but the most important thing is people having access to cannabis now, not tomorrow,” he added.

“Seeing regulations that kind of seek to do that as effectively and efficiently as possible is something to celebrate.”