After the legalization of cannabis last year, many people in Ecuador believed that the new law would mean a free access pass to cannabis and cannabis-based products. But now, Ecuador’s government is changing some of its laws to thoroughly regulate the use and access to medical cannabis, in order to assure that only the right medical authority can prescribe these alternative treatments.
The medicinal use of cannabis and its derivatives was legalized last year in Ecuador. Since its decriminalization for medicinal use, through the reforms to the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code in 2019 until the approval in the National Assembly of the Health Code, the cannabis industry has promoted its therapeutic use.
In December 2019, the National Assembly approved three articles that legalized the use of medical cannabis:
- In article 48, article 220 of the COIP was modified and now the possession of medicines that have the active component of cannabis or derivatives will not be punishable if it is for therapeutic, palliative, medicinal purposes or for the exercise of alternative medicine, always that is proven by a professional diagnosis that you have a disease.
- Article 49 amends 222 and states that anyone who sows, cultivates, or harvests plants to extract substances that by themselves or whose active principles are going to be used in the production of narcotic substances will be punished with one to three years in prison. The cases found in general provisions 1 and 2 of the Organic Law for the Comprehensive Prevention of the Socioeconomic Phenomenon of Drugs and Substances Subject to Control and Supervision are accepted.
- Article 127 indicates that it is added to general provision 3 of the Drug Prevention Law the exclusion of non-psychoactive cannabis or hemp as a cataloged substance subject to control (whose delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol content is less than 1% in dry weight).
However, now, in the latest Health Code approved by the Assembly, drugs containing narcotic and psychotropic substances are regulated in six articles that are contained in a chapter. The document establishes the limits that doctors have for prescribing these drugs.
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New law to assure that only the right authority could prescribe medical cannabis
To be able to access this type of alternative medicine, it will be necessary to prescribe through special recipe books that the National Health Authority must regulate, it is explained in article 337. “The dispensing and sale of medicines containing listed substances is prohibited, and subject to control, not prescribed in the recipe books referred to in this article.”
Medical professionals who may prescribe it, including cannabis treatments, must receive authorization from the ‘Authority’, which will maintain an updated registry. Likewise, authorized pharmaceutical establishments and services may dispense and sell medicines and processed natural products for medicinal use that contain listed substances subject to control.
“Said authority will keep an updated record of those establishments and pharmaceutical services, which must compulsorily provide the said authority with the mandatory periodic reports on stocks, prescriptions, dispensing and sales of this class of drugs,” is explained in Article 339.
In addition, these establishments must maintain a registry of patients, for which a regulation will be issued.
Although the use of drugs and natural products with active cannabis components is allowed, it will depend on the diseases or medical conditions determined by the Health Authority.
In article 340 it is established that “it will take into account the scientific evidence that has demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness; it will regulate the concentrations of said substance in them and the amount allowed in each prescription, depending on the pathology treated, as well as the temporality of the duration of the said prescription.”
Hemp cultivation could bring many opportunities to Ecuador
Last May, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), through the Undersecretary of Agricultural Production, Andrés Luque, held a webinar on the legalization and opportunities of hemp cultivation in Ecuador.
There it was explained that hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant, can be used mainly in the manufacture of drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and in adjuvant products for cancer treatments.
In addition, since June, there is a period of 120 days for that ministry to prepare the regulations for cultivation and production. Self-cultivation will not be allowed in it.
“As MAG, we will have competition from the importation of seeds to the production of oil; that is, the agro-industrial process, which will allow faster procedures,” Luque said.
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First published in El Universo, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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