Chilean lawmakers approved a major piece of legislation earlier this week, which would essentially legalize the cultivation and possession of marijuana nationwide.
The lower house of the country’s Congress voted 68 to 39 in favor of allowing Chileans to grow up to six plants for medical, recreational or religious purposes, as well as be in possession of up to 10 grams without fear of criminal repercussion.
“We’re celebrating the overwhelming approval of this project,” Ana Maria Gazmurri, president of the Daya Foundation, a nonprofit organization that lobbies for pain treatments, said. “This project is on the right path and we’re optimistic that it will be passed quickly. It should go through the health commission in a month at most and ideally it should be approved by the Senate in two months.”
As it stands, almost every offense pertaining to cultivation and distribution of cannabis in the South American nation comes with a hefty prison sentence — some reaching in upwards of 15 years. And while medical marijuana is permitted to some degree, patients have complained that they must endure the painstaking process of petitioning the government for permission.
“It is a historic day for medicinal users who wish to stop being persecuted and be able to access a medicine that they can grow in their gardens,” Karol Cariola, a member of President Michelle Bachelet’s leftist coalition told Reuters.
However, before this bill can become law, a health committee must first give it a review before it receives a secondary vote from the Chamber of Deputies. It will then need the support of the Senate and finally President Bachelet in order to pass.
Cannabis is reportedly already being cultivated in one Chilean city, ever since the country launched a pilot medical marijuana program for cancer patients last October.
Of course, some lawmakers are standing in opposition of the bill, arguing that it will cause a surge in the consumption of mind-altering substances that could prove detrimental to the youth of the nation.
“This is a bad project and authorities have been largely absent,” Sergio Espejo, an officer with the Christian Democratic Party told the Associated Press. “It hides the country’s public health tragedy with the increase in the consumption of marijuana among young students.”
Supporters have cited neighboring Uruguay as a prime example of this proposal contributing to a harmonious society.
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