El Salvador seems to be tiptoeing toward legalizing medical cannabis, cautiously and without any hint it could go further.
In mid-July, a Salvadoran lawmaker introduced a bill to legalize cannabis for medical use, as well as legalizing domestic production and imports for this purpose. But the conversation around the bill is an exceedingly careful one. The Legislative Assembly’s Security Commission awaits recommendations from the Ministry of Justice and Security, as well as the National Drug Commission, before moving the bill forward.
The proposed bill was authored by Deputy Francis Zablah, who, like the recently-elected President, is a member of the Grand Alliance for National Unity , a conservative party founded in 2010. It requires users to navigate some serious legal hoops. Should the bill become law, patients would be required to obtain a special medical prescription and register with the National Directorate of Medicines. Once registered, El Salvador’s Ministry of Health would grant patients a one-year license. Researchers, manufacturers, and distributors would also be obligated to register.
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According to the text of the bill, “in other countries, it has been proven that the marijuana plant contains chemicals that can be useful for treating a wide variety of illnesses and symptoms.” As a result, “more and more countries continue to legalize its medical and therapeutic use.” On social media, congressman Zablah reiterates this point with a video that features a map of all the countries that have legalized medical cannabis or are in the process of doing so.
In some ways the bill is vague. For one thing, it does not specify allowable amounts of cannabis for any of the registrants, though it does indicate that only the “quantities necessary” for “scientific research, development of medicines, medical treatment, or for the manufacture of industrial products” will be permitted. Nor does the bill list specific illnesses, though it does point out that “cannabidiol is known to have an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipsychotic, anti-ischemic, anxiolytic, and antiepileptic effects.”
Zablah, who routinely says that cannabis is “less harmful” than chemicals used in other medications, has also underscored that the “spirit” of his proposed legislation does not seek to legalize the “recreational” use of cannabis. To learn more about how the bill might affect El Salvador’s approximately 6.5 million residents, Cannabis Wire repeatedly reached out to the congressman for comment. We also asked if any business interests have fueled his decision-making, but have yet to receive a response.
Notably, Zablah’s Twitter profile features cannabis-based products, though the brands have been blurred. He has also retweeted a handful of posts posts illustrating the wide array of cannabis products available on the international market.