Decree opens Argentina for CBD, medical cannabis imports

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Medical cannabis regulations that have been published by the Argentine government hit the start button for expanded imports of CBD and other medicinal cannabis products to Latin America’s fourth biggest market of 45 million consumers.

With the rules’ release this month, CBD- and THC-based products are now legal for medicinal purposes in Argentina, and may be imported, but with sales restricted to pharmacies, and prescriptions required. It is unclear as yet whether health & beauty products that contain CBD would require a prescription or if the rules apply only to CBD meant to be taken internally.

Authorizing imports

In addition to growing their own medicine, patients will now be able to “acquire medicinal specialties elaborated in the country or acquire magisterial formulations elaborated by authorized pharmacies,” according to the decree. The government said the rules will allow the import of medicinal cannabis products to address a wider range of illnesses than products currently on the market.

Domestic public production is to be through laboratories of the National Agency for Public Laboratories, with products to be distributed through the National Bank of Cancer Drugs and Pharmacies.

Potential for topicals

CBD topicals could also find a strong market in Argentina, where demand for natural additives and ingredients used in cosmetics is rising as consumers seek healthier lifestyles. Analysts say the country’s aging population is especially turning to organic cosmetics products.

Major players in the beauty and personal care products sector already positioned in Argentina are Shiseido, Beiersdorf AG, L’Oreal Group, Procter & Gamble, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., and Unilever, among others. All are known to be making or exploring products based on natural or organic raw materials. L’Oreal Group recently introduced a hemp-based skincare line.

Research is approved

The regulations released this month came in a decree published in the government’s official gazette. Expanding on authorization under the National Cannabis Programme (Reprocann), a scheme that was created in 2017 but has not been fully operational, the rules also authorize medical use of cannabis by researchers and other institutions.

The original 2017 law approved the use and sales of cannabis oils, including CBD, by prescription but prohibited home growing of cannabis. The rules decreed this month lifted the self-cultivation ban, which had proven so restrictive that people in need turned to the black market for cannabis products.

‘Mama Cultiva’ happy

That comes as good news for Mama Cultiva, a non-profit grassroots organization of South American mothers who lobby for cannabis as treatment for their childern who suffer from such afflictions as cancer, epilepsy and autism. The group was instrumental in the creation of the 2017 medical cannabis law in Argentina, and has otherwise worked to relax rules for self-cultivation and cannabis-based treatment.

The new decree intends “timely, safe, inclusive and protective access for those who need to use cannabis as a therapeutic tool.” The government is to promote the production of cannabis for medicinal use and will guarantee access for patients who do not have coverage under prepaid or union-run healthcare schemes. 

Growing interest

Several large cannabis companies from North America and Europe have expressed interest in setting up CBD and medical marijuana operations in Argentina.

With the coming into force of the medical cannabis law and the recent introduction of a bill aimed at opening up Argentina’s industrial hemp market, the country appears to be fast-tracking its cannabis strategy.

Industrial hemp law

Argentina could have a hemp law by the end of the year if that bill passes. The proposed law advocates whole-plant usage and exploitation of hemp for its health, environmental and economic development benefits.

The hemp law would set the maximum THC level for Argentinian hemp at a full 1.0%, following in the footsteps of leading hemp nations around the world who are going beyond the widely accepted global benchmark of 0.3% maximum THC.

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