The cannabis industry in South/ Latin America is gaining vibrancy as medical cannabis is now legal in most countries and others have moved a step further to open up the adult-use market. The key drivers of the regulated cannabis market in South America are Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. According to Statista, the market value of cannabis in Latin America is currently $ 7.3 billion, with Brazil having the largest market.
The Status of Medical Cannabis in South America
Quite a number of countries in Latin America have a regulated program that allows patients with qualifying conditions to access medical cannabis. Some countries such as Argentina allow patients to cultivate medical cannabis for personal consumption. Chile has a medical cannabis program and in 2014 the country approved a cannabis-based drug called Sativex. Countries with medical cannabis programs include the following:
The Status of Adult-Use Cannabis in South America
The cannabis legalization wave has deep roots in Latin America, seeing that Uruguay was the first country globally to fully legalize adult-use cannabis. That happened back in 2013. However, legal sales began in 2017 through licensed pharmacies. The country only allows the consumption of cannabis with a maximum of 9% THC. Adults are also allowed to register growers clubs where they can grow a maximum of 99 plants each year.
As much as no other Latin American country has legalized adult-use cannabis, a handful has decriminalized the possession of small amounts for personal use. For example, Argentina passed a law (the Arriola ruling) in 2009 that stated that it was unconstitutional to prosecute people for possession of small amounts of cannabis. Brazil has also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Latin American countries that have decriminalized cannabis include the following:
Some countries in South America are yet to relax their cannabis laws, even though they have ongoing conversations. Cannabis remains illegal in Bolivia, but pro-cannabis advocates such as Brigida Quiroga are at the forefront of pushing for cannabis reforms. The Rastafarian community in Guyana is also advocating for pro-cannabis reform as cannabis remains illegal. Counties in South America where cannabis is prohibited include the following:
Even though most Latin American countries are yet to legalize adult-use cannabis, there’s been significant positive momentum in the last decade. Statista estimates that the Latin American and Caribbean legal recreational cannabis market will reach a value of 300 million by the end of 2024. It will be interesting to watch how events unfold in the cannabis scene in South America.