Panama Opens Door to Legalization of Medicinal Cannabis with Proposed Law

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Policy in Latin America governing medical cannabis use is evolving away from a blanket bar of any cannabis use. A few Central and South America countries allow use of cannabis and oils containing cannabidiol (aka “CBD”) for victims of epilepsy, appetite loss, nausea, chemotherapy-induced vomiting, or HIV/AIDS-associated pain or muscle spasms.

In recent years, some Latin American countries have reformed their controlled substances policy. For example, use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Peru. Bolivia’s Constitution recognizes use of the coca leaf. In Uruguay, cannabis use is legal and the government there regulates a free market for cannabis. Colombia has legalized and regulated cannabis production, sales and exportation for medicinal purposes, and the Colombian Ministry of Justice has granted several licenses to grow cannabis without psychoactive effect, which is defined as having content of tetrahydrocannabinol (aka “THC”) below 1 percent of the product’s dry weight.

In Panama, Bill 595 (the “Bill”) was recently introduced to legalize consumption of liquid marijuana for medicinal purposes. In Panama, cannabis use was declared illegal in 1928, and this drug is not registered as a pharmacology drug in the official list of medications of the Social Security Fund of Panama.

The Bill stems from parental concern for children suffering from epilepsy, and seeks to legalize liquid marijuana consumption for medicinal purposes, and also to stop the smuggling of these products.

The Bill drew no distinction between psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabis. Need for reform.

Article 8 of the Bill defines cannabis as: “Cannabis sativa, cannabidiol or marijuana is a species of herb of the family Cannabaceae. It is a perennial plant, dioecious, and originating from the Himalayan mountain ranges in Asia.”

Unlike the laws of Colombia and other Latin American countries, this definition does not differentiate between non-psychoactive and psychoactive cannabis.

This definition could affect manufacturers and sellers of non-psychoactive hemp oils, and could have major adverse implications for the free market of food products containing CBD oil, currently legalized.

The National Assembly has the power to amend the Bill before it passes into law.

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