Argentine Law No. 27350 regulates medical and scientific research on the medical use of cannabis and its derivatives across the whole country. Still, this statute has failed to provide enough room for action on its own, so complementary regulations became necessary, such as Regulatory Decree No. 883/2020 and Ministerial Order 654/2021, allowing significant progress in terms of research. To that end, the National Programme for Study and Research on Medical Use of the Cannabis Plant was established within the Argentine Ministry of Health, and different governmental bodies, such as the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (or CONICET, by its Spanish acronym) and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) were authorised to grow cannabis for medical or scientific research purposes in order to produce medications.
Meanwhile, labs across different provinces started working on cannabis oil production to use in patients in the publicly funded healthcare system suffering from refractory epilepsy. This is the case of the Province of Santa Fe and its Laboratorio Industrial Farmacéutico (Pharmaceutical Industrial Laboratory, or LIF, by its Spanish acronym), which announced the completion of the first batch of 926 30 mL bottles. These will be distributed to public hospitals and health centres, and patients covered by IAPOS, the health insurance plan for public employees of this province.
Legal, Safe, and Free Cannabis Oil
Laboratorio Industrial Farmacéutico, a state-owned enterprise controlled by the Province of Santa Fe, was established in 1947 and, since then, it has been producing different drugs to supply the public healthcare system of the province. The company operates throughout the whole district and directly supplies hospitals José José María Cullen, CEMAFE and Hospital Provincial del Centenario.
Governor Omar Perotti attended the presentation of this cannabis oil batch at LIF facilities and highlighted the thorough work carried out by the lab staff and thanked Silvia Traverso, head of the Argentine Customs Administration, for her collaboration to obtain raw materials. “Producing cannabis oil here, in our lab, posed a challenge because this is the first time an official laboratory achieved something like this—with all that this entails, such as running a brand-new import process,” stressed Perotti.
Cannabis Imports for National Oil Production
However, this oil was not produced using raw materials grown on Argentine soil; cannabis had to be imported, which adds complexity to the procedure as processes get delayed and costs escalate. It would be easier if cannabis was grown in the country. In this regard, the governor said that he is in talks with the Ministry of Production of Santa Fe and the INTA to produce raw materials within national borders to make the oil, achieving import substitution.
Meanwhile, the state-owned enterprise Cannava, which produces medical cannabis oil in the country, celebrated the opening of a biotech complex in the Province of Jujuy. Thanks to an industrial pharmaceutical plant and a post-harvest facility, the product will be sold as from next November in all local drugstores. Up to this moment, Jujuy stands as the only Argentine province to develop a structure and provide institutional authorisation for setting up a comprehensive cannabis oil process—meaning the whole process, from planting the seeds to industrial production and, ultimately, selling the product in pharmacies. In accordance with provincial law, only registered doctors with the Province of Jujuy are licensed to prescribe this drug, since cannabis oil cannot be sold over the counter.
Cannava wishes to supply the whole country and, in the mid-term, to export to Europe and Brazil. As the company awaits authorisation to expand its production capacity from 35 to 600 hectares, it is estimated that Cannava will be growing on 220 ha of land and employing 7000 people by 2022.