When it comes to legalized recreational cannabis, the Americas are the place to be, from Canada down to Uruguay. And there might be a new addition. With a new constitution being written, it’s quite possible that we’ll soon see legalized recreational cannabis in Chile.
If a new constitution means recreational cannabis will be legalized in Chile, the total will be up to five countries! More legalized locations means more markets, more innovation, and better products for you. The new cannabis boom has opened the door to tons of other cannabis compounds like CBN, THCA, and delta-8 THC, a half-brother to delta-9 with similar benefits, but which causes less anxiety and couch locking. Check out our diverse array of deals for delta-8 THC, delta 10, thco, thcp, thcv & even hhc and take advantage of these changing times.
Right now cannabis is illegal for production and public use in Chile, but is a widely consumed drug for both medical and recreational purposes. Chile has the highest per capita cannabis usage in all of South America according to 2019 statistics on Latin American cannabis consumption.
Drug regulation in Chile is governed by Ley de Drogas from 2005. In 2008, the laws were made more harsh because of illicit cannabis flowing into the country. Punishments for possession and use increased to that of drugs like cocaine and heroin. For a country that’s pretty cool with the plant, this caused a lot of tension, and this tension led to change starting around 2014. That year, the government loosened its grip, and began allowing the cultivation of cannabis for medical research purposes. It took until the end of 2015 for president Michelle Bachelet to officially sign into law a medical cannabis policy, which allows prescribed use.
The medical legislation opened the sale of medical cannabis from pharmacies, and reclassified cannabis as a soft drug. It went a step further than a standard medical legalization, stating adult Chileans are able to grow up to six plants for “medical, recreational or spiritual reasons”, which means the medical legalization, also worked as a decriminalization measure for personal use. It is legal to grow, sell, and import cannabis for medical purposes. One stipulation is that doctors who prescribe cannabis without a good reason can face from 5-15 years in prison, and fines up to USD 28,000. This is the same for establishments that provide medications.
Cannabis goes pretty far back in Chile, considering cannabis did not originate in the general region. Hemp farming may have started as early as 1545 AD in the Quillota Valley. At that time, the hemp fiber was used for the army and for ships mainly. In terms of today, according to a study by the University of London in conjunction with the Universidad Andrés Bello, 48.2% of Chileans support legalization, and 40% have tried cannabis at some point. Whereas the global average for starting cannabis is about 14-15 years of age, in Chile, it’s actually 12. Only approximately 6.2% of the population think that cannabis can be dangerous. Compared to other Latin American countries in the study, Chile had a higher per capita use rate, and a lower rate of negative attitude toward it.
It’s not every day that a country throws out its constitution in favor of making a new one, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Chile right now. Growing social inequalities led to major protests in 2019-2020, called ‘Estallido Social’. Protests and demonstrations were held all over the country, and particularly in metropolitan areas. Reasons for the demonstrations included: a raise in metro fares in Santiago, higher costs of living, general corruption, inequality, and privatization. Protests resulted in a lot of damage to the public infrastructure of the country, with this time period considered the worst civil unrest since the military dictatorship of Pinochet ended in 1990.
All of this resulted in an agreement between political parties to establish a new set of laws to govern the country. On May 15-16, 2021, the people of Chile got to vote for the people who would write their new constitution, an ability the population did not have in the past. It was decided that 17 seats would be reserved for indigenous parties, something that also never happened in Chile before.
Chile’s old constitution, which is on its way out, isn’t actually all that old, going back to 1980 when Chile was being ruled by the Pinochet dictatorship. A dictatorship which ended 10 years later in 1990. Though it has been amended over the years, it clearly is still too authoritarian for Chilean comfort.
In this last constitutional convention election, Chile showed its desire to move left, electing 104 out of 155 delegates from liberal parties, whether left-wing, independent, or indigenous. This according to Daya Fundación (a pro-cannabis organization) director Ana María Gazmuri, who also went on to say that “neither the word cannabis nor marijuana will appear anywhere in the new Constitution.”
Though cannabis is not likely to be mentioned directly in the constitution, how it’s treated will be directly related to what’s in the constitution, and the wording it uses. Chile’s new constitution will be drafted by this new convention. If the constitution works to ensure guarantees to health as a right, providing all alternatives including natural traditions, this could legalize cannabis.
Another option is if Chile’s new constitution includes provisions related to personal sovereignty, which could also trigger a change in drug laws. So long as the constitution is written such that the government cannot impinge on personal sovereignty, and so long as stipulations are made that third parties aren’t being hurt by acts of personal sovereignty, then this would be in line with a recreational cannabis legalization.
This new convention is not a stable government, however, and the new government will be voted in during the November 21, 2021 presidential elections. This election will be to put in place a president, part of the Senate (27 of the 50 members), all 155 Chamber of Deputies, and all 302 regional board members. Of the presidential candidates, several already endorse legalizing cannabis, including the presidential candidates of the socialist and communist parties. Who gets elected could also impact how quickly a legalization might occur.
Personal Sovereignty refers to the idea that a person is the owner of themselves. It’s the right a person has to be the only ruler over their own body and life, and to essentially be self-owned. This can be attached to both moral and natural rights, which means, pertaining to legal rights given by governments, and natural rights which are universal and unalienable. In the US constitution, for example, unalienable rights are for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The idea of personal sovereignty is a mainstay of many constitutions in the world. It is this idea which led to South Africa’s incredibly lax, near-legal stance on cannabis, as decided by the country’s Constitutional Court in a 2018 ruling that upheld a 2017 ruling. In the 2017 ruling, it was stipulated that South Africans are guaranteed privacy under section 14 of the Bill of Rights. As such, the following statement was made by the court:
“A very high level of protection is given to the individual’s intimate personal sphere of life and the maintenance of its basic preconditions and there is a final untouchable sphere of human freedom that is beyond interference from any public authority. So much so that, in regard to this most intimate core of privacy, no justifiable limitation thereof can take place… This inviolable core is left behind once an individual enters into relationships with persons outside this closest intimate sphere; the individual’s activities then acquire a social dimension and the right of privacy in this context becomes subject to limitation.”
When the Constitutional Court of the country upheld this ruling in 2018, it ended South Africa’s prohibition on cannabis, allowing for personal use, possession and cultivation. It did not, however, legalize public use, or set up a regulated market. Many questions were not answered by the ruling, and since that time, South Africa has been drafting an official bill to go in line with the court mandate.
Mexico is similar in that the legal change came through the court system. At the end of 2018, the Supreme Court made a 5th consecutive ruling which triggered jurisprudencia, when a Supreme Court ruling becomes binding for all lower courts, setting law that overrides stated legislation. All five cases had to do with the cultivation or personal use of cannabis, and the court ruled that in all cases the defendants must be allowed to use cannabis personally without interruption by the government. People are considered personally developed human beings, with personal development (which is the same as personal sovereignty) a tenant of the Mexican constitution. As such, the government cannot get in the way of people choosing their own recreational activities, including the use of cannabis.
Much like with South Africa, the court ruling only set the law in place, while the still-being-worked-on legislation will make clear the regulations around it. In the case of Mexico, the Congress has repeatedly avoided writing a bill, even forgoing asking for an extension at its last missed deadline, and leaving it to the Supreme Court to officially drop the laws of prohibition. Which it did on June 28th, 2021.
There isn’t a huge amount of commentary about this yet, probably because there isn’t a constitution to comment on yet. Perhaps the new constitution will contain no laws to help push through a recreational cannabis legalization in Chile. And perhaps given the strong liberal showing from the constitutional convention, there will be some specification for personal sovereignty, or health as a right. If the recipe so far has been that liberalization in government leads to more liberal drug policies, then perhaps this convention really will write the constitution to open the door for an adult-use market.
If a new constitution does pave the way for recreational cannabis in Chile, it would join Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, Georgia, 18 US states, and Australia’s Capital state Canberra as the fifth recreational country, and seventh recreational location (if the 18 states are counted as one). Currently, Chile is already among the more forward thinking Latin American countries, offering medical policies along with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, and as of late last month, Panama.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
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