By Marguerite Arnold
Latin America is being transformed from the bloody fields of the drug war to a place where the growth of medical and recreational marijuana is potentially becoming a major development crop. This week Chile has joined the club of Latin American countries that are entering the green rush.
In Colbún in the Maule Region of Chile, also home to the largest wine-making area in the country, the Daya Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for the use of medical marijuana, has the country’s first permit from the Chilean government to grow medical marijuana. This now becomes the largest legal grow area in Latin America.
While the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is technically still illegal in Chile, the government appears to be on a path that many other sovereign governments are taking right now with the issue, including Germany, Israel, Australia and even the federal government in the United States.
In Chile, the government initially began its legalization program in secret in 2014, just after Uruguay legalized the drug. This spring, the Chilean field will harvest its first crop from a heavily guarded 9,150 square foot facility in La Florida. The plants will be used to make oils for medical use.
According to a recent poll by Plaza Publica Cadem, an independent polling firm, 86 percent of Chileans favor the use of medical marijuana. The faculty at the University of Valparaiso’s Pharmacy and Chemistry program is providing technical support for the oil extraction that is intended to take place. The Arturo Lopez Perez Foundation, known for its work in oncology, is also playing a role in the project.
Like many countries on the cusp of legalization, the laws here are still in flux. While support for medical use is very high, late last year, the country also saw a widely publicized case where a new mother was prevented from nursing her child after she admitted use and further was only allowed limited visitation for her child.
The use of medical marijuana for sick children has also been a highly contentious issue like elsewhere in the world. Two years ago, 100 local parents decided to move forward with an illegal grow to help their children. The movement is strong here, as shown in a recent documentary, “Green Medicine.”
The other remarkable aspect about the quick pace of change here, is that the country is very conservative, yet like other places, including the United States, pediatric developments have moved mountains for medical marijuana in a short period of time.
And as Chile moves into the legalization camp, the winds of change are blowing across America’s southern hemisphere.