Panama Approves Medical Marijuana Law — Is Costa Rica Next?

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Swayed by advocates’ slogan of “For a day without pain,” the National Assembly of Panama voted on Aug. 30 to legalize medical marijuana. The bill now awaits the signature of President Laurentino Cortizo of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), which is expected shortly—despite a pressure campaign from the conservative political opposition.  Tight Control —But Conservatives Not Appeased Medical marijuana measures have been pending in Panama’s unicameral National Assembly since in 2017. Fundación LUCES Panama, an advocacy organization for epilepsy sufferers, testified before the body in support of the right of patients to access cannabis.  Also critical was the testimony of Dr. Sandra Carrillo, a professor with the University of Panama medical school and the country’s foremost medical cannabis specialist. In an interview outside the National Assembly chambers ahead of the vote, Carrillo sad, “This law will improve the quality of life for patients…. Some epilepsy patients are taking two or three medications, and they still don’t work. Medical cannabis provides an alternative that can relieve their pain and suffering, and that of their families… There are many Panamanians suffering from conditions that other medicines have not been able to alleviate.” This year, National Assembly president Crispiano Adames (PRD) threw his support behind the final version, Law 153. It calls for establishment of a Cannabis Technical Council, with two representatives from patient groups to oversee the program. A national registry of qualified users is to be established, and an initial seven licenses to be granted for importation and domestic production of cannabis-based medicines. Domestic production is to take place under tight control, with surveillance systems and other security measures. Pharmacies vending cannabis products will also have to apply for a permit and pass a site inspection. There is no provision for home cultivation. Nonetheless, the law was opposed by Panama’s pharmaceutical industry. While media accounts are stating that Law 153…

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