Updated on December 28, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Ecuador features a unique program for medical marijuana. While illegal, the government permits the personal use of up to 10 grams of medical cannabis — anything higher is punishable by law. As a result, travelers and residents should understand the country’s approach before adding medical marijuana to their treatment.
Unlike other countries, Ecuador hasn’t developed a medical marijuana program. One of the reasons is due to limited funding for the National Council of Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Drugs (CONSEP), which is now called the Technical Secretariat for Comprehensive Prevention on Drugs of Ecuador (SETED).
Because of this decision, Ecuadorians have exceptional freedom in their use, administration and dosage of medical cannabis. There are risks with this arrangement, however, as patients may use strains and medicating methods that aren’t ideal for their condition.
Like many countries throughout South America, Ecuador’s history with marijuana is extensive. The plant thrives throughout the year in the region, due to the climate, which makes the country and its neighbors a prime location for cultivating cannabis.
The rise of the drug trade, however, led to marijuana’s illegalization. After years of combatting heroin, cocaine and cannabis trafficking, Ecuador followed the suit of countries like Columbia and Chile by focusing on large-scale operations, versus everyday people using marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.
That’s why, since 2008, Ecuador has viewed marijuana use as a health-related topic, rather than a crime.
While Ecuador does not allow the cultivation of cannabis, it does permit its possession. Per SETED, you may carry up to 10 grams of marijuana or hash — if you exceed this amount, you will be in violation of Ecuador’s laws, which will leave you vulnerable to the country’s penalties.
Since 2002, Ecuador has worked to establish telemedicine throughout its hospitals and health centers. Due to financial strains of the early 2000s, the movement to adopt telemedicine has become a challenge for the government, though there are hospitals throughout the area that do offer telehealth support.
Any patient may qualify for medical marijuana in Ecuador. Movements by the National Assembly of Ecuador, however, are encouraging the founding of a medical marijuana program that would designate qualifying conditions, with a focus on patients with cancer and HIV. The advantage of this program is that it would allow patients to exceed the country’s 10-gram limit.
A core feature of many medical marijuana programs, such as those in the U.S., is medical marijuana cards. Because of the government’s approach to cannabis, as well as their legislation, a regulatory agency for producing and providing these cards does not exist, which means patients may use medical weed similar to over-the-counter medicine.
Some facts about medical cannabis in Ecuador include that the country has:
If you exceed Ecuador’s 10-gram limit or indicate you’re involved in micro-transactions, you’ll be in violation of their laws. Penalties for exceeding this limit often include jail time. If you’re carrying 20 grams, you can receive up to three years in prison — 300 grams comes with a five- to seven-year sentence.
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