Chile Closer to New Constitution And Possible Cannabis Legalization

July 10, 2022

Chile has been undergoing the arduous task of creating an entirely new constitution for its people. In doing so, it opened the door to a possible cannabis legalization. Where is Chile now in this constitution process, and what is the thinking on cannabis?

Chile and its quest for a new constitution could lead to a cannabis legalization. Or at least, we really hope it does! This is a wholly independent news publication covering stories in the burgeoning cannabis and psychedelics spaces. You can be a part of it all by signing up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, which along with updates, nets you access to deals on tons of products including popular cannabinoid compounds, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. We only encourage consumers to buy products they are completely comfortable with using.

Chile and cannabis

Chile is in line with much of South America, which has been seeing an overall loosening of cannabis regulation. It’s not quite as loose as Uruguay, which was the first country to legalize since global prohibition started, but it might be getting closer to the same thing.

All production and public use of cannabis is illegal in Chile. However, Chile passed a decriminalization bill back in 2005 which decriminalized personal and private use of cannabis. This was updated further when a bill passed in 2015 which decriminalized home cultivation of up to six plants. These plants can be used for medical, recreational, or spiritual purposes, essentially opening up Chile for legal home use.

By signing the measure, then President Michelle Brachelet removed cannabis from the list of the country’s dangerous drugs. This also made it possible for pharmacies to sell cannabis-derived medications to patients with a prescription from a doctor. One stipulation of this, is that doctors who prescribe cannabis for reasons not considered good enough, can face 5-15 years in prison and up to $28,000 in fines.

home cultivation

As with most any country, trafficking crimes are met with stiff consequences of 541 days to 5 years if the quantity caught with is small, and 5 to 15 years if the quantity caught with is large. Consumption of cannabis in groups is also criminalized, whether its considered personal group use, or selling or trafficking. The exact punishment is left to a judge to decide in these cases.

Hemp cultivation and use are both legal in Chile. This includes purchasing, consuming, and otherwise using hemp oil. Hemp cultivation goes back pretty far in Chile, and its thought that it started as early as 1545 AD in the Quillota Valley. Back then the hemp was used mainly for military ships.

How popular is cannabis in Chile? A study done by the University of London and the Universidad Andrés Bello together, found that 48.2% of Chileans support cannabis legalization. According to the study, about 40% of the population tried cannabis sometime in life. Chile has one of the younger ages globally for cannabis commencement in life, averaging at 12 years, rather than the global 14-15 years of age.

Only a small percentage of 6.2% think cannabis is a dangerous drug, says the study. And in comparison to other countries in Latin American, Chile’s per capita rate of usage is higher, with lower rates of negative thoughts about it.

New constitution

We don’t hear all the time about countries getting rid of entire constitutions in order to write new ones, but it does happen sometimes, and Chile now stands as a great example. The main reason for this constitutional upheaval stemmed from protests in 2019-2020 which came from widening social inequalities among citizens. These protests, called ‘Estallido Social’, were held all over Chile, with big showings in metropolitan areas.

Some of the issues that most affect Chileans are related to a Santiago metro fare hike, increased living costs, corruption, inequality among citizens, and privatization. A lot of damage ensued to public infrastructure, and the protests have gone down as the most potent civil unrest since the ending of Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1990.

Chile and cannabis law

The protest situation resulted in political parties agreeing to throw out what they had, and to create a new set of laws to govern the country. The country voted on May 15-16, 2021, to elect those who would write the constitution, which is something Chileans were not included in, in the past. Another first was the decision to reserve 17 seats for indigenous parties. Now, in June 2022, Chile has a draft complete, and is working on making edits. One of the big pushes of those newly elected to office: to legalize cannabis.

Incidentally, Chile’s old constitution is actually rather new itself, going back only to 1980, when Pinochet was in power. Under Pinochet, the constitution was made very restrictive, and though edits have been made over the years, it still retains a restrictiveness obviously no longer appreciated by the public.

Where is Chile now?

When the announcement of the new constitution happened, one of the big questions that arose, was if Chile would institute some measure for cannabis legalization. And it seems that this is a possible outcome. In Chile’s 2021 elections, which saw the entrance of candidates from new political parties, the winner was one such candidate, Gabriel Boric of the left-wing Social Convergence party. He beat out Jose Antonio Kast of the right-wing Republican party.

Gabriel Boric is now the youngest president of the country at 36-years old, and a former student protest leader, which bodes well for cannabis legalization. In fact, a large percentage of the officials elected last year, are left-leaning or independent, making such changes that much more possible.

This process has certainly taken a toll on Chile, with many reports of disorganized debates, and an inability to come to conclusions. Many of those elected are not from political backgrounds, making the process that much more difficult. The population at large has shown distress at the disorganization, and Boric’s approval level has gone down. On September 4th, the constitution will be voted on. If it’s rejected, the old constitution remains, which brings up some grave questions considering what brought this situation to where it is in the first place.

Will the Chile constitution support cannabis legalization?

Cannabis legalization was one of the big matters for upcoming discussion, along with other topics like water and property rights, central bank independence, labor laws, animal rights, feminist education, and protection of nature. All of these issues were submit as proposals that underwent voting.

Chile Constitution cannabis

Proposals went through a process of debate, and required a 2/3 majority in order for laws to be added to the new constitution. Measures that did not pass a first vote, went through an editing process, followed by a second vote to make it into the final text. If a measure was rejected, it was either completely discarded, or revised again.

The issue with cannabis, is that for whatever reason, it was not approved by the Fundamental Rights Commission of the Chilean Constitutional Convention, which regulates the process. The measure was rejected by a vote of 10 votes for, 21 against, with two abstentions. In some write-ups its still written that cannabis legalization is being debated, but its unclear if this is due to not being updated, if other measures exist besides this one, or if it was revised and resubmit.

The one that was voted down, received 44,000 signatures, way above the necessary 15,000 for addition, and was supported by 43 organizations, elected deputy under Boric Ana Maria Gazmurri, deputy Manuela Royo, and the mayor of Quilicura, Paulina Bobadilla. It was a proposal for legalized self-cultivation and use. However, the wording might have gotten it in trouble:

“The state recognizes as a limit of its faculties, attributions and powers, personal sovereignty, autonomy over one’s own bodies and human dignity, respecting the free development of personality, privacy, and the search for wellbeing, pleasure and integral health. This includes the use of cannabis and other psychoactive substances of vegetable or synthetic origin”. Perhaps it was too far reaching, and a more limited proposal not meant to legalize all drugs, would have been better. Whether or not it was revised, is not clear.

Conclusion

Even if the new Chile constitution doesn’t directly lead to a recreational cannabis legalization, the new government makes it that much more likely to happen, even if not immediately. And if the new constitution doesn’t pass at all, we might see a new swath of protests in the country, and who knows what’ll happen then.

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