Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Chile has been known as one of South America’s most conservative countries. But, even medical marijuana patients in this nation benefit from the cannabis revolution happening all over the world. Like many other parts of the world, Chile lets patients with chronic conditions use medical cannabis to relieve their symptoms.
Some countries and states provide a medical marijuana program patients can join to legally get cannabis medicine. These programs have an application process that can take a while to finish. But, program participants often get extra benefits and protections.
Chile does not have a program like this. Instead, it lets patients get marijuana medicine with a prescription. They can legally take their medication like they would any other medicine approved for the market.
Patients who prefer not to pay for medical marijuana can also grow and use a small amount of cannabis in their home, although the regulations surrounding at-home use are still a little fuzzy.
Chile has a long history with the cannabis plant and its relatives. As early as 1545, people in the area we now know as Chile grew hemp in order to make fiber.
In 2005, Chile technically decriminalized medical marijuana use, but they then classified the plant as a Schedule I drug in 2008. So, ordinary citizens who medicated with marijuana still faced criminal prosecution. It wasn’t until 2015 that Chile removed cannabis from that list.
A recreational marijuana decriminalization bill passed the lower house of Congress in 2015, but it didn’t pass higher areas of government. Chilean pharmacies began selling cannabis medicine in May 2017.
Now that Chilean patients can get cannabis medication in pharmacies, they can legally possess the amount specified in their prescription. Patients can also own and use a small amount of marijuana if they do so in their home. Anyone who grows large amounts of marijuana must receive government authorization.
Chile is working on implementing more telemedicine services into its health system through the “Digital Health Strategy.” As part of the project, they want to increase access for rural citizens through telemedicine technology. The health system has also put a cloud system in place that lets Chilean health facilities stay connected with one another.
Doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to patients like they would with other medications. They primarily prescribe it to patients dealing with chronic pain or seizures, but people dealing with other health issues may be able to get a prescription depending on their doctor’s knowledge about cannabis and the symptoms in question.
Patients in Chile don’t need to get a medical marijuana card from the government to get medication. Instead, they must bring their prescription to a pharmacy to have it filled. They can also use a small amount of non-prescribed marijuana in their home.
Here are a few facts about medical marijuana use in Chile:
Before marijuana was decriminalized in 2015, marijuana patients faced harsh punishment for use and possession. Over 16,000 people were detained in the first half of 2014 for cannabis possession.
Fortunately, the decriminalization measure placed marijuana in the soft drugs category, putting it on the same level as alcohol. It also more explicitly legalized medical use, making the patient experience safer.
Medical cannabis policies are constantly changing all over the world, including in Chile. As a medical marijuana patient, doctor or loved one, you want to know what happens as soon as possible. For current news and updates on the state of medical marijuana in Chile and other countries, follow our blog.