The government of Argentina is certainly moving with speed to establish a regulated cannabis industry. This month, not only has it approved the creation of non-profit patient collectives, but it has also, as of this week, created a special category for cannabis plant medications as well as designated the federal control agency for the same as the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT). Cannabis products over 0.3% THC must be prescribed for a doctor for a specific condition.
The new resolution is part of the project launched by the Argentina Ministry of Health to “protect, promote and improve the health of the population” through the regulation of cannabis-based products. This is the business end of the law passed in 2020 which allowed the self-cultivation of medical plants and the preparation and distribution of the same via pharmacies.
Putting Patients First in Argentina — Not “The Industry”
Unlike other countries (including the U.S. and Germany right now), Argentina appears to be on a fast track to implementing not only a national cannabis industry, but further one which does not only favor large corporations with money. Interestingly, unlike Germany, and more like the early development of the market in North America, home grow and patient collectives rather than a national cultivation bid have been the country’s first step into the world of cannabis reform, even if for now it is still “only” of the medical kind.
As has been the case everywhere else, medical reform always predates recreational reform.
However, it is notable that unlike in Germany specifically, if not most of Europe at present, there is no discussion of limiting the market to for-profit entities—and indeed quite the opposite. While the changes in Germany were designed to incorporate cannabis medicine under national healthcare, there is much to be desired about how the program has been rolled out so far. Forty percent of patients who have applied for reimbursement, after being prescribed the same by a doctor, have been turned down (a percentage that is consistent over the last five years). In the meantime, both doctors and patients face prosecution by authorities—and for a variety of “crimes”—from not having the right paperwork to prescribing “too much” cannabis.
It will be interesting to see how Argentina, as a legalizing country, continues to roll out such reforms, although it is also fairly clear that for now, recreational reform is off the table. That said, it is also decriminalized for personal use.
The Impact on Spanish Speaking Cannabis Reform
Argentina is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world by land mass and has the second-largest economy in the South American hemisphere. In the late 19th century, Argentinian GDP even eclipsed that of the United States, although throughout most of the 20th century, political destabilization changed that.
It remains one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with a climate that ranges from tropical to polar. Well over half of its exports are agricultural.
Beyond its impact on the cannabis industry in the American hemisphere, it is not inconceivable that Argentina’s move to formalize its cannabis industry will have a significant impact on the ever-hovering question in Spain, which has so far resisted federal reform of any kind. Right now, there are four formal EU GMP licenses granted in Spain (all for export purposes), and the cannabis club discussion is still not formalized.
While the clubs could be described as a “non-profit” patient collective, the reality is however, that the entire infrastructure in Spain still exists in a grey area that is not federally regulated.
Beyond the Spanish-speaking world, however, it is striking that the country has decided to take a page out of North American reform. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the patient collectives will turn into private companies (as was seen in particularly Canada) that also go public.
Time will tell.
In the meantime, it is clear that Argentina is approaching the entire conversation in a way that has been proven to be successful, even if most of Europe has so far ignored the same. Revolución Libertadara indeed!
Marguerite Arnold is a veteran cannabis industry journalist, covering the market from Germany since 2013. Her second book, Green II: Spreading Like Kudzu, about the inside story of the first German cannabis cultivation bid, is on sale now in English and German.