By / May 4, 2020

Cannabis cultivation as a crucial activity during the COVID-19 pandemic

This year, the World Marijuana March, held every first Saturday in May since 1999 in favor of cannabis legalization could not take place: the Covid-19 pandemic forced a rigorous virtual celebration. 

However, in addition to changing behaviors and habits, the forced isolation demonstrated the health autonomy of the medical cannabis growers, unaware of the collapse of the traditional health system that was seen in many countries, with its interrupted treatments and long lines resulting in greater risk.

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Argentinians are looking for solutions in order to continue with their cannabis treatments

“Unlike what happens with everyone else, for us quarantine is a moment of peace,” said Valeria Salech, a leading figure in the Mama Cultivation movement. “We are inside the house, with the police busy with other things, without persecution. The mothers who make medical cannabis for our children work in the community, we pass around plants, oil. Beyond the complication of being locked up, we are happy to be out of the health system and not be standing in line to go to the pharmacy,” she added.

For Martín Armada, editor of THC magazine, in quarantine “the importance of guaranteeing the full right to self-cultivation has never been clearer, because it is a tool that defeats the illegal market and makes an invaluable contribution to public health.” To demonstrate this he offers an example: “Imagine a family with a child who is treated with cannabis. In this context, the right to have their plants would prevent them from taking very high risks. On the one hand, the risk of being exposed to infection in order to obtain this cannabis. And, in the absence of a supportive grower, the danger of being trapped in the black market, where cannabis is of very dubious quality and prices are tied to discouraging speculation.”

Josefina is 7 years old and has been diagnosed with refractory epilepsy, which causes up to 700 seizures a day. Cannabis oil changed her life and that of her mother, Maria Laura, who fought to make her daughter the first patient in Argentina to be authorized by the state to import medical cannabis from the United States. 

A few days ago, the delay in the delivery of the oil by the social work IOMA generated its desperate request to the authorities and also the solidarity of many growers who immediately offered to share their production to support Josefina’s treatment.

“To run out of oil,” explained Maria Laura, “is to end up in intensive care. Because of our children’s pathologies, they often have respiratory problems, and in winter it is common for them to develop pneumonia. In this context of pandemic, I don’t know if our children would manage to survive.”

Faced with this scenario, Salech insisted that the only guarantee for not interrupting treatment is self-cultivation. “That way, you don’t fall into the dependency of the State to authorize the entry of an outside medicine. There are certain issues that the traditional health system does not resolve.”

Argentina’s current cannabis law complicates everything

Through Decree 738/2017, the previous government regulated Law 27,350, legalized medical cannabis and scientific research on the medical use of the cannabis plant and its derivatives. Although the self-cultivators emphasize that this was a great first step, it is the patients themselves and the organizations that are demanding an overcoming regulation that, among other issues, ends cannabis criminalization.

“We need the law to be changed because it is the fastest way to incorporate self-cultivation, and that has to be done by the Ministry of Health through a decree. The longest path would involve moving towards a legalization of the use of cannabis in general and betting on an industry that has much to give. Argentina has an agricultural culture, public laboratories, scientific capacity, everything to make us a leading country in the region,” Salech said.

Until then, the solidarity-based grower will continue to take risks and those who can will import it. María Laura is clear about this: “What wouldn’t a mother do to get her daughter’s medication?”

Taking into consideration other countries experience with cannabis

The governor of Colorado, in the United States, Jared Polis, signed a decree at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate access to cannabis by considering it an “essential” good. For 30 days, the new regulations authorized the purchase of cannabis over the Internet or by telephone (previously it was only possible to buy it inside the clinics).

In addition, medical cannabis users will not need to visit a doctor beforehand and, after making the purchase, they will have to wait for the product to be delivered to the parking lot of the store, respecting the obligatory social distance. In California, Washington and Oregon, the dispensaries also enabled take away service.

The same happened in the Netherlands, but also for recreational use. In order to prevent people from staying in shops or forming long queues on the streets, the authorities, who had first decided otherwise, exempted coffee shops from compulsory closure due to coronavirus.


(Featured Image by Add Weed on Unsplash)

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