While four US states and the District of Columbia have begun treating marijuana as a legal commercial and personal crop, other nations in the Western Hemisphere are feeling the pull toward marijuana law reform. The South American country of Uruguay lead the way with its legalization plan, followed by Jamaica’s plan to decriminalize marijuana use and cultivation.
Now the west coast country of Chile, which has the greatest marijuana use rates in South America, has embarked on a path toward marijuana legalization for adults.
Chile’s lower house last week voted 68-39 in favor of laws that relax the country’s marijuana laws, some of the most severe on the continent. Currently, cultivating, selling, and trafficking marijuana is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Under the approved law, adult Chileans will be allowed to cultivate six cannabis plants and possess in public up to ten grams of usable marijuana.
The law isn’t settled yet. It still needs to go through a Chilean health commission for approval. If successful, it will then be voted on by the Chilean Senate. If passed, leftist President Michelle Bachelet is expected to sign it into law.
Chile has already begun a government-approved test plot of cannabis grown in one region to investigate the potential for treating cancer with cannabis. However, the proposed law will allow for the use of cannabis for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes.
Chilean Communist politician Karol Cariola was ecstatic about the future of marijuana in Chile, telling Reuters, “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.”
But some politicians ask the same question prohibitionists in America often ask, what about the children? There are fears among some that legalization will lead to a rise in use by youths, even though the opposite trend has been seen in the US states of Colorado and Washington.
Sergio Espejo with the Christian Democratic Party explained to Associated Press, “This is a bad project and authorities have been largely absent. It hides the country’s public health tragedy with the increase in the consumption of marijuana among young students.”
Last year, thousands of protestors took to the streets of Santiago, Chile’s capital, to call for the legalization of cannabis, noting the example of Uruguay, which legalized marijuana last May and has not seen any of the dire consequences predicted by Uruguayan prohibitionists.