Chile President Michelle Bachelet just signed a decree officially removing marijuana from the country’s list of “hard drugs.”
The change in policy now classifies marijuana with other “soft drugs” like alcohol, and could be the most recent in a string of significant steps toward legalizing cannabis in Chile.
The decree also legalizes the sale of cannabis-derived medicine at pharmacies, ABC News reports.
What the decree doesn’t do, however, is change very much of anything else. Planting, selling, and transporting marijuana is still illegal in Chile, and those who get caught doing so could still get sentences of 5-10 years in prison.
While this latest change is still a long way off from full-scale legalization, many see it as another important step in a more general trend of making cannabis more accessible in Chile.
In October 2014, the government launched a program designed to produce cannabis for medicinal uses, and this past April the country enjoyed its first legal harvest of medical marijuana.
“The 400 plants were sown . . . in a heavily guarded field of about 100 square meters in the residential district of La Florida, in the capital of Santiago,” teleSUR English reported.
“The non-profit organization Daya Foundation was then granted a permit to extract cannabis oil in a pilot program aimed at treating 200 cancer patients for free.”
Chile’s latest move is also an important part of the growing international trend of decriminalizing cannabis and moving toward legalization.
Joining Chile in this global movement, Mexico recently made headlines when its Supreme Court of Justice declared “the absolute prohibition” of cannabis to be unconstitutional.
Similarly, Canada has recently taken important steps toward legalizing marijuana. In mid-November Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a mandate calling on lawmakers to begin working to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational uses.
And earlier this week, Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott began acting on Trudeau’s mandate by creating a task force to roll out cannabis legalization.