Could Chile’s Cannabis Home Grow Movement Lead A Global Change?

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The issue of home grow –either for medical or recreational use – has been a hotly debated issue as cannabis legalization becomes real in more and more places around the world.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that growing at home is one of those slippery slopes for those who are doing the initial rule writing. Cannabis could end up in the wrong hands (children or the black market). Those who are using it medically might not be growing it properly or using harmful pesticides. In some places, the legalizing industry has seen both private grows and collective non-profit grows as direct competition – even if for medical use.

In places like the Netherlands and Spain right now, collective private grows are one of the main places that regulation has never penetrated. This is a grey area – and deliberately so. In the United States, states like Colorado wrestled with this conundrum even before 2014. In Germany right now, this is also a controversial issue.

Patients won the right to grow at home several years ago if they could prove that they could not afford to buy cannabis through a pharmacy. As the drug was not covered by health insurance, this meant an out of pocket cost every month of close to $2,200. Five patients took the German government to court and won the right to grow at home for medical use. Now, however, that right appears to be curtailed as the country moves to put the drug under health insurance.

Chile, however, appears to be on a slightly different path. And if it is successful, it might well provide a new kind of model for other governments as the issue of who pays for access and how much becomes better defined, parsed and understood.

The History of Legalization in Chile

Chile has not really been at the forefront of global marijuana reform. The small strip of a country on the western coast of South America legalized the drug for medical use in 2015. At the time it was also following a wave of other Latin and Central American countries who are also beginning to legalize the drug. This is happening on two fronts. One is because of medical efficacy. The other, however, is part of a concertedly different approach to the drug war from the other side of America’s southern border.

As a result, cannabis reform here is seen as a doubly important public health issue.

This, in turn, has begun to influence how the industry develops here.

In May of this year, Chile’s pharmacies became the first to sell marijuana concentrate as a medicine of any of the legalizing countries around it.

Chile’s pharmacies became the first to sell marijuana concentrate as medicine of any of the legalizing countries around it.

The Chilean Congress is now also considering a bill to explicitly let people grow the plant at home for medical purposes.

It appears to be the first time a national sovereign government has considered this issue specifically.

Why this Approach and Why Now?

It is unclear why Chile has decided to go forward with home grow legalization specifically. It could be that the country’s decision-makers have realized that the early crops the country has already planted will not be enough to supply the entire country. Further, infrastructure, such as health insurance and medical services, are not comprehensive. Legalizing the right of patients to take care of themselves relieves a huge burden on the state.

Unlike Argentina, which has begun importing CBD oil from the United States, Chile has appeared to be far more self-sufficient in providing the drug to its populace.

However, this also could be a way to sidestep onerous compliance provisions. The distribution via regular licensed pharmacy model is one that is still very new. In every country where this is in the process, pharmacies, in particular, are finding themselves on the end of a potential nightmare, with requirements entering into force, with no easy way to meet them.

Israel, Canada, and Germany are all countries who are dealing with the issue right now as well. In Germany, cannabinoid flower has been available for several years from regular pharmacies. This is about to get a modernization as 10 more licensed producers enter the market.

In Israel, a modern commoditized market with national distribution to chain drug stores is still in process and has been on the table for at least several years. However, the decision to even allow this in the first place was pushed through by the overwhelming bottlenecks in other forms of distribution. Originally Israelis had to go to special cannabis clinics. This requirement is also now a regulation for the history books.

In Canada, much of the bottleneck and compliance issues faced by pharmacies elsewhere are alleviated by the ability to ship straight to the consumer. It is only this year that the country, like Canada, will begin to see mainstream chain drug stores carrying cannabis.

So what does that mean about Chile’s home grow decision in the offing?

Bottom line it could be a smart way to alleviate supply chain issues, not to mention increase medical access as established systems are implemented globally.

And that is cause for cheer among patients.

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Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite is an American expat. She has worked in digitalization of two industries (film and finance) for over 25 years as well as a professional journalist and writer. She lives in Frankfurt where she is also just finishing her Executive MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, working as a freelancer and writing a medical marijuana/FinTech business plan. She published her first ebook on the pace of marijuana reform last year.

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