Report Nº: 78922/01/2019
Marijuana raises controversial and contradictory positions. On the one hand, it is considered an illicit drug for any purpose (whether medical or recreational) by a United Nations convention of 1961, reaffirmed in 1971 and reinforced in 1988 when a virtual war against marijuana was declared and put into effect in 1990. 185 of the 193 countries that are part of the United Nations are members of this convention. The few non-adherents are very marginal countries of Africa and Oceania.
But from 1990 to the present, many countries of medium and high income level have arranged their legalization. In the European Union, for example, the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes was gradually legalized. Uruguay, in 2013, takes a pioneering step that opens a global trend legalizing marijuana not only for medicinal purposes but also for recreational purposes. In 2018 Canada followed the path of Uruguay and, most surprisingly, 11 USA states did so even when a federal law criminalizes it under the terms of the United Nations Convention.
What explains that a society as conservative on the issue of drugs as the USA has begun the path of complete legalization? Some indications are provided by a survey by the Pew Research Center of that country indicating that in the USA:
These data show a striking reversal in the perception of Americans regarding the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. In only 3 decades, it went from a majority rejection to a majority that is now in favor of full legalization. This trend will deepen in the coming years because the same survey also indicates that people born between 1960 and 1980 (called Generation X, today over 40) approve the legalization by 63%, but those born between 1980 and 1997 (the Millenials) the legalization is approved by 74% of the cases.
There are indications that 2019 will be a landmark year in the production and commercialization of legal marijuana. The opening to total legalization generates large markets, such as Canada and the USA. This will boost investments in the industrialization of marijuana by incorporating other regions into a very dynamic business. According to market studies it is estimated that marijuana consumption mobilizes some USD $ 52 billion with a clear tendency to expand. Among the most promising regions for production is South America. Chile and Colombia have already regulated the cultivation and production of marijuana for mass marketing purposes.
Argentina is not prepared to assimilate these global trends. On the one hand, by judicial decision, possession in small doses for personal consumption is not criminalized. Very recently, in 2017, Law 27,350 was passed allowing scientific research and the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes, but the production limited only for INTI and CONICET and occasionally extended to state owned laboratories. The production in any of its forms continues to be a crime and is subjected to police prosecution. But there are already provinces, such as Jujuy, which created a state company for the industrial production of marijuana, which made a commercial agreement with a well-known private American firm that specializes in the production and industrialization of marijuana.
Marijuana poses complex public policy challenges. Not only from the point of view of controlled consumption but also as a productive activity generating economic added value, decent jobs, scientific research and innovation and generation of foreign currency. This requires a rational and coherent approach. It is not simply a question of freeing cultivation and consumption, nor of maintaining the iron prohibition that has been fertile ground for drug trafficking. It will be much more conducive to explore innovative schemes that provide a framework of safety and quality control for both the production and the consumption of a natural product that is prevailing in the world.