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  • A marijuana plantation in Chile extends as far as the eye can see.

    A marijuana plantation in Chile extends as far as the eye can see. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 January 2016

The South American nation has unexpectedly become a pioneer in medical marijuana production, which the government provides for free to cancer patients.

The biggest marijuana plantation is not in Uruguay or Mexico, not even in Peru or Colombia, but in Chile, where in March they will harvest close to 7,000 cannabis plants for medicinal purposes, Spanish news agency EFE reported Tuesday.

Despite being notorious for its conservative ways, Chile has become the first Latin American country to cultivate and harvest cannabis for medicinal use.

"Even if people do not believe it, Chile is now the regional pioneer in medicinal cannabis cultivation,” Ana Maria Gazmuri, president of Daya Foundation, an organization that promotes and researches therapeutic alternatives, told EFE.

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The project was launched in 2014 aiming to provide at least 200 cancer patients with marijuana.

The Chilean Congress passed legislation in December to authorize the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana, a measure that has been adopted by other countries such as Puerto Rico and Colombia.

The Chilean government also agreed with the new legislation to produce and provide other medicines for free to about 4,000 patients.

“The objective of this project is to generate three major clinical studies that will be conducted by the National Cancer Institute and two hospitals,” Gazmuri added.

The research will be financed by 20 Chilean municipalities that expect to benefit patients with cancer problems, epilepsy and chronic pain.

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Experts in Chile also expect that this new resolution will pave the way for marihuana to be removed from the “hard drugs” list, which calls for prison sentences of up to 10 years if caught cultivating or in possession of cannabis.

“We are clearly living changes in policies in Chile and in public perception,” said Gazmuri, in reference to a possible national debate on decriminalization that would be promoted by lawmakers.

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