ASUNCION – Paraguay, the largest producer of illegal marijuana in South America, is studying the possibility of becoming an exporter of cannabis for medical applications, creating the paradox of not being able to use the thousands of tons confiscated unless the drug has the properties necessary for therapeutic use.
The contradiction arises from the different characteristics of the drug when intended for illegal trafficking or for medical use, and so a legislative debate is in process over how to authorize the growing, marketing and consumption of the weed for medical and research purposes in this country.
Paraguay is currently the No. 1 producer in the region of illegal marijuana, with 2,289 tons of the chopped drug confiscated since 2013 and the eradication of 6,890 hectares (17,000 acres) of cannabis crops, according to data presented this week by the National Antidrug Secretariat (Senad).
The expert at the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Miguel Angel Velazquez, told EFE that medical marijuana “needs 0.4 percent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to act as a painkiller” and should have a large percentage of CBD (cannabidiol) in order to generate a “sedative effect” on patients with refractory epilepsy.
However, the marijuana seized by anti-drug authorities has had in some cases an excessively high percentage of THC, the psychoactive substance of the plant, which rules out its medical use.
“It’s a lie that Paraguayan marijuana is the best for medical use. It’s the best for getting high – native marijuana has been found with some 20 percent of THC and that’s a lot,” the doctor said.
“Paraguay’s current marijuana is not suitable for medical applications,” he said.
Velazquez noted the need for future laws that regulate the production and marketing of Paraguayan medical marijuana and which specify the kind of seeds and their characteristics that may be prescribed for that purpose.
Paraguayan law does not ban the use or possession of medically prescribed marijuana, but sentences to between 5 and 15 years in prison those who possess it without a prescription, the same sentence for traffickers, and with up to 20 years for those who grow it without authorization.
Early last June, Paraguay began to sell doses of cannabis oil for therapeutic use to fill prescriptions, one month after the Public Health Ministry authorized its importation through a local laboratory.