It is currently legal to grow up to 20 cannabis plants in Colombia, and medical marijuana is already available. Colombia has been a close ally in the US war on drugs, deploying the military to combat drug traffickers and taking aggressive measures to destroy illegal cannabis crops. But in a move to ease its drug policies, the government announced in November 2015 that it would fully legalize medical marijuana and regulate its production, distribution, sale and export.
President Juan Manuel Santos is due to sign a decree any day now putting the new policy in effect. Colombia, the world's largest cocaine producer, has a difficult history with drugs. Drug trafficking has given rise to horrific violence by drug cartels such as slain kingpin Pablo Escobar's, which was based in the same city where Ines and Luna live.
‘The Colombian government announced in November 2015 that it would fully legalize medical marijuana and regulate its production, distribution, sale and export. The President is due to sign a decree any day now putting the new policy in effect.’
Every year Colombian mother Ines Cano celebrates her daughter's birthday by getting a butterfly tattoo, her way of giving thanks that little Luna has survived another year of chronic epilepsy.
Ines has up to 12 tattoos now. She is hopeful of adding many more thanks to the medical marijuana treatments that have changed their lives, and which Colombia is now in the process of legalizing and regulating.
The 12 tattoos could also represent the number of anti-seizure medications she tried previously, to little effect.
Ines, who carried her developmentally delayed daughter on her back for seven years until she learned to walk, said, "Every day Luna had seizures when she woke up and went to sleep. She could convulse for one or two hours. Seizures are pain, anguish, powerlessness. It's a phantom that grabs you. But cannabis made her feel better. Luna started recognizing colors, feeding herself, became more independent."
Since January 2015 Ines has been giving Luna one drop of cannabis extract every night. Ines said, "The changes have been dramatic. By the ninth day, she stopped having seizures, as if it were a miracle. That's why I think it's important, especially in this country, which has so much fertile land, to take advantage of that little plant."
Luna's doctor Paola Pineda said, "It will make it easier to buy, sell and process it."
Pineda, a vocal proponent of fully legalizing medical marijuana, said, "My activism began when I saw what patients were going through to access such treatments. It seemed very harsh to me that families would separate, sell everything they had in Colombia to travel to another country in search of that therapeutic opportunity, when we had it right here."
Producers of medical marijuana currently operate small firms through the loopholes of a 1986 law that legalized cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Mauricio Garcia, co-founder of medical marijuana company Cannalivio, said, "The new decree will allow them to offer high-quality products on a much larger scale."
The firm launched eight years ago, taking advantage of what Garcia calls 'voids' in the 1986 law. Today it sells not only medication but oils, ointments and even a lip balm made with pot.
Garcia said, "But with Colombia's fertile soil and tropical climate they could do much more. In other countries, (medical marijuana) is grown completely inside, with artificial lights, irrigation and fertilizer systems. Colombia could become the China of cannabis."