Marijuana Bill Takes First Steps in Chile’s Congress

EspañolA bill that would remove marijuana from the list of hard drugs, classifying it as a soft drug like alcohol, is set to be debated by Chile’s Congress in full after approval at the committee stage.

The lack of interest from government might delay the process of approval that could take years.
Government reluctance is likely to delay the passage of the law by months if not years. (Pixabay)

On Monday, March 6, the Health Committee of the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill that would allow those over 18 years of age to possess up to 10 grams of marijuana and cultivate a maximum of six plants in their home. The bill, however, would not overturn an existing ban on smoking marijuana in public places.

“It is a historic step; it opens a window for the medicinal use [of marijuana],” said committee chairman Luis Castro, of the governing New Majority coalition.

However, Castro complained about the “systematic absence of the executive” from the debate, to which he attributed the slow progress on cannabis legalization.

The initiative would allow the law “to establish a real balance between permitting consumption of cannabis, which already existed in Chile because it was not penalized, and obviously the possession as well as cultivation in private places for personal use,” Congressman Victor Torres, also from the ruling coalition, told press.

Claudio Venegas, editor of marijuana culture magazine Cáñamo, said the bill would be a “step forward” in drug policy, but claimed it didn’t go far enough. “Chile needs a new drug policy, which is a more complex issue and goes beyond cannabis,” he argued.

The announcement comes as residents of the Santiago suburb of La Florida prepare for its first harvest of legal marijuana for medicinal use, after the government granted the neighborhood’s doctors a trial license.

President Michelle Bachelet said in 2014 that she would not support any initiative to legalize marijuana, but did form a technical commission to explore drug reform.

Nevertheless, before drug activists can declare victory, the bill will need to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, a process that — without government support — could take years.

Sources: La Tercera.

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