Cannabis regulation has been elusive in Central American countries, while their neighbours in South and North America moved forward in leaps and bounds. Mexico is gaining more and more ground in terms of recreational cannabis legislation and countries like Colombia and Argentina are expanding the scope of the law to support the medical industry. Meanwhile, Panama is making progress after the National Assembly of Panama passed Bill 153 in August, in a full session, during the bill’s second debate—bringing the country closer to medical cannabis legalisation.
Is Weed Legal in Panama?
Until August, growing, using, or transporting cannabis, either medical or recreational, was banned in Panama. Today, the country joins Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico, where medical use has already been regulated—an achievement that will surely inspire neighbouring countries in the fight for cannabis legalisation in their jurisdictions.
Panama Moves Towards Statutory Regulation
In August this year, the National Assembly of Panama enacted Law No. 153, governing the medical and therapeutic use of cannabis and its derivatives. The Panamanian Ministry of Health will be in charge of granting licences to import, buy, and sell this drug, but, on another note, this public department bans door-to-door or online sales of medical cannabis byproducts in the country. In this sense, there are plans to establish a National Program for the Study of the Medical Use of Cannabis and its Derivatives, which aims to foster research for the benefit of patients and launch public education campaigns.
Additionally, this initiative stipulates that only seven licences to produce cannabis derivatives can be issued until five years have passed since the enactment of this statute. The ultimate purpose behind this measure is to oversee and monitor the functioning of the domestic market.
This decision—introduced by Representative Crispiano Adames—will undergo a third debate whose date is still to be defined on the legislative calendar. After the adoption of the bill, Marie Millard, CEO of the LUCES Panama Foundation—dedicated to fight against epilepsy—requested President Laurentino Cortizo to sign the bill into law and issue implementing regulations as soon as possible so that patients with different needs have access to this product and improve their quality of life, stopping pain.
However, this piece of legislation faces some opponents, such as the Pharmaceutical Association of Panama (Colegio de Farmacéuticos de Panamá), as well as Representative Mayín Correa, who do not support cannabis cultivation in the country.
Marijuana in Panama
According to historical records, research was carried out in 1916 during the construction of the Panama Canal. The U.S. Army medical corps studied the effects of cannabis on soldiers, who used this drug during the building of the canal. The study concluded that cannabis was not addictive, and that consumption did not produce adverse health effects. Still, consumption was banned claiming that it was detrimental to military discipline, as reported by Elisabet Riera in her book “Manual del cultivo de la marihuana.”