On November 4, citizens in five U.S. states could wake up to newly-approved measures to legalize recreational or medical cannabis. It appears November could also be a big month for Argentina, with reports indicating that a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use will be introduced next month in Argentina’s Congress. The bill is being drafted by Socialist Deputy Enrique Estévez (who, for followers of Argentine politics, is not part of President Alberto Fernández’ left-leaning coalition; the Socialist Party caucuses with opposition political groups).
Currently, Argentina is waiting for new regulations on medical cannabis, which was legalized in 2017, as we discussed in Malbec and Medical Cannabis: Have Them Both in Argentina. Estévez’ bill would decriminalize recreational cannabis use and allow home cultivation of up to 480 grams per year. Not coincidentally, sources close to Estévez are drawing parallels between the proposal and neighboring Uruguay’s existing framework. Uruguay’s own cannabis law also establishes a 480-gram annual limit for home growers (to learn more about Uruguay’s cannabis framework, listen to our Global Law and Business Podcast interview with Dr. Rodolfo Perdomo). However, while Uruguay aspires to become a cannabis export and research powerhouse, Estévez’ vision for cannabis in Argentina appears modest, focused on public health and personal choice concerns.
Sources close to the legislator have clarified that the intention is to keep production at a small scale. Not surprisingly, the socialist Estévez does not appear to be thinking of cannabis’ business potential. In fact, the same sources warn that decriminalizing is not enough, and that the state must ensure safe access to cannabis, in order to keep users away from drug traffickers. Access to cannabis will be through “home growing or growers clubs” or “through access to a regulated market with strict controls, on a small scale, in which associations, cooperatives and state-owned enterprises participate.”
Interestingly, Estévez represents the province of Santa Fe, which has seen quite a bit of cannabis legislative activity recently. The provincial senate is considering medical cannabis legislation approved by the lower chamber that would allow home growing. Meanwhile, the government of Santa Fe’s eponymous capital is expected to soon issue implementing regulations for an ordinance that established a registry for medical cannabis users and growers.