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Is Recreational Cannabis Reform Coming to Ecuador?

Last week around 500 demonstrators marched through Quito (the capital of Ecuador), demanding decriminalization and public access to cannabis.

Many people at the march were openly using cannabis. This an act of courage no matter where you are on the planet, not to mention a dangerous proposition anywhere—even as a patient—as pro-legalization demonstrators in Melbourne found out recently. 

Ecuador has made possession up to 10g a decriminalized offense. However, authorities may charge you with a crime for even one gram. The local police are not equipped with scales so this decision is controversial. The officer on the scene is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to file charges.

Beyond this, according to the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, Article 364 states that drug consumption is not a crime—rather, a health concern. The National Assembly of Ecuador also legalized medical cannabis in Ecuador in September 2019. Actually, the federally-regulated production of medical cannabis just began in March 2019.

There is a reason people are taking to the streets demanding further cannabis reform this spring—and it is not just limited to this Latin American country. All over the globe, marches were held demanding legalization and full normalization of cannabis. In Germany, for example, much like Ecuador, medical use is “legal,” and the country is cultivating medical cannabis. Just like Ecuador, both patients and recreational cannabis users could be accused of a crime by the police.

This is a situation that is intolerable everywhere simply because of the massive injustice it creates—not to mention the continual criminalization of large segments of the population for a “crime” that is rapidly disappearing.

Ecuador, a nation of 16.8 millions people is located along the Northwest Coast of South America. It borders both Columbia and Peru. Once upon a time, Ecuador put itself on the map exporting “Panama hats” to manual laborers working on the Panama Canal and other agricultural work.

More recently, the country is a major exporter of petroleum—and has an increasing profile as a tourist destination. The country’s amazing geography plays a large part in this. Located on the Ring of Fire—a horseshoe shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, the country has three distinct regions consisting of coastal, highland, and piedmont zones. It is located in the Amazon basin and straddles both the Andes Mountains. It also encompasses the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador is the first country in Central America to implement medical cultivation. Its citizens now demand that the drug be available for any reason.

This logic is quite universal right now. 

It is now a question of when will authorities catch-up.

Privatization of Medical Cures

Tragically, what the situation in Ecuador illustrates in spades is that the medicalization of the cannabis plant, although overdue, is creating two levels of “legalization.”

The first, usually described as “medical reform” places regulations on who may cultivate, distribute, sell, and ultimately consume the plant. In north-south terms it means that the producer country may still pursue its citizens for medicinal and recreational uses, while keeping the price out of reach for everyday people.

Even in advanced economies, this is an issue. This seems to be a problem that has finally compelled the German government towards recreational reform.

The bottom line is that when a country begins cultivation—even for medical purposes—but insists on criminalizing everyone without a license who may grow or use it, the days of criminalization are numbered.

Although the certifications of both recreational and medical industry are a welcome development, there will be many casualties, regardless of where you live on this planet.