Government officials effectively launched Peru’s medical marijuana program last week with the publication of regulations for the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Although some rules to implement the South American nation’s 2017 law legalizing medical marijuana had been issued by decree earlier this year, they did not include guidelines for companies to apply for required licenses.

Under the new rules, licenses will be available for research, production, import, wholesale commercialization, seed production, and retail sales of cannabis. To obtain a license, applicants must submit detailed information including agricultural production plans and security protocols.

Regulators also issued rules that will allow businesses with production licenses to import seeds from other countries including Colombia. However, some regulations including the procedures for exporting medical marijuana products to other nations have not yet been issued.

“While there are always more details that regulators need to figure out, these guidelines represent the initial building blocks that will allow Peru to create a framework for companies to start capitalizing on different businesses opportunities, joining the global cannabis industry,” said Andrés Vázquez Vargas, the executive director of agricultural consulting firm ACM Peru.

“The long-awaited guidelines just published allow businesses to really start having meaningful operations in the country,” he added.

Medical Marijuana Legalized in 2017

The medicinal use of cannabis was legalized in Peru in 2017 following generations of strict enforcement of laws prohibiting marijuana. As he signed the legislation, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said that it was time to reject cannabis’s reputation as a dangerous drug.

“Here we are breaking with a myth,” he said. “Peru is turning several pages, moving toward modernity.”

The Peruvian congress passed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in response to the work of Buscando Esperanza (Spanish for Searching for Hope), a group of mothers who were covertly cultivating cannabis to create medicine for their seriously ill children. Ana Álvarez, a leader of the group, had been making a tincture for her son.

“Anthony has suffered from severe epilepsy since he was 3 years old,” she told High Times last year. “For years, he had seven or eight fits each day. Pharmaceuticals would work only for three or four months. Trying one medicine, another—that’s how the years passed. We went to different neurologists, they all said the same thing—there’s no cure. And with each fit, neurons are killed, and the condition worsens.”

With the cannabis tincture, however, Anthony’s seizures have been reduced to about two per day. The severity of the seizures has lessened, as well. He is now working toward his high school graduation after years of being too ill to study and is developing his social skills at a theater workshop.

“He is connected to reality again,” Álvarez said last summer. “Before he was there physically, but off in a world of his own. Now he can lead a dignified life.”

But despite the advances made by the legalization of medical marijuana in Peru, the law only allows production by licensed businesses. Patients and their caregivers are not permitted to cultivate cannabis at home, leaving Buscando Esperanza with another battle to fight.

“This law was meant to help us but I’m worried that it could do the opposite,” Álvarez says. “We are not well-off. How will we be able to afford this medicine if we can no longer make it at home?”

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