By Emily Ledger
The Central American country of Panama has officially approved the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal uses after a historic vote by the National Legislative Assembly on Monday (30th August).
The assembly voted unanimously in favour of the proposed legislation – with 44 votes in favour and none against – which will create a regulatory framework for the use and controlled access of cannabis “for therapeutic, medical, veterinary, scientific and research purposes.”
The move will make Panama the first country in Central America to regulate the consumption of cannabis. Another country in the region, Costa Rica, is, however, considering legislation that would legalise the cultivation of hemp and cannabis for the manufacture of a number of products.
The legislation will now be sent for approval by Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo. This final approval will initiate the creation of a regulatory framework for the new sector.
The cultivation, production, export, and commercialisation of cannabis and its derivatives by approved license holders will all be allowed under the new law. Cultivation will be permitted in state-approved established areas with limited access. Only pharmaceutical companies or companies that specialise in therapeutic services will be allowed to acquire and commercialise the plant.
The bill was developed in response to increasing demand for access to medical cannabis products from patients across the country. A growing number of patients have found that cannabis can be useful to mitigate the symptoms of a number of conditions – including pain.
According to reports, patients in Panama also report benefits for glaucoma, epilepsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, migraines, seizures and pain associated with cancer.
While the development will be welcomed by many in Panama, it is likely that the legislation will draw some criticism. Home cultivation of cannabis will remain illegal – with illegal production and sale punishable by up to 10-15 years in prison. The advertisement of cannabis products will also remain prohibited.