Argentina’s Legal Market Refines Its Regulations

By Esteban Rossi I., Ph.D., Analyst, New Frontier Data 

After what’s been a five-year process, the Argentinian public looks forward to implementation of Law 27,669 (2022), to expand and update the regulatory framework for its legal cannabis industry. The law is the result of major efforts conducted by former Minister of Productive Development Matías Kulfas along with the support of numerous social organizations and interest groups.

A Look Back

Since the first draft for legal cannabis reform was approved in 2017, Argentinian authorities decided to take a step back and move slowly. As noted here in April 2021, Law 27,350 provided a general regulatory framework but lacked specificity, and thus was insufficient for the creation of a new market.

Progress has been stalled throughout the past four years while the executive branch aimed to gradually update existing laws by establishing guidelines for scientific research projects and a registration system for cannabis patients. Those milestones required thorough public discussions, resulting with new decrees or resolutions. Eventually, legislators approved rules for home cultivation, and allowed private firms to request approval to conduct research projects.

Notably, Kulfas took it upon himself to oversee expansion of the regulatory framework. Seeking to foster economic development while reconciling various political and public concerns, he outlined a broad vision for the Argentinian cannabis industry that was signed into law last month, before his recent resignation over controversial remarks he made about Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Incremental advances

Upon approval of Law 27,669, President Alberto Fernandez welcomed “implementing a law that was the result of a great consensus”, and stressed how the government “started to pay attention to patients and their families, and today we are winning another battle against hypocrisy”.

The aim to protect patients’ rights by guaranteeing access to medical products has been fundamental, and comes after years of efforts by organizations like Mama Cultiva, and political leaders including Carolina Gaillard and Mara Brewer.

Centrally, the primary accomplishment of Law 27,669 hinges on Argentina’s creation of its Regulatory Agency of the Hemp and Medical Cannabis Industry (ARICCAME). The new and autonomous agency will be tasked with developing a licensing regime for issuing technical guidelines for the production and distribution of products, as well as for seeds.

Opponents of the law argued that the state was already burdened with bureaucracy, and that the agency’s mandate clashed with the autonomy of the provinces. Nevertheless, the experience of the Uruguayan cannabis agency (IRCCA) indicates how creation of a specialized and independent entity is crucial for the development and administration of the industry.

Rising Opportunities

The government expects Argentina’s cannabis industry to generate 10,000 new jobs, over $500 million USD in sales, and another $50 million USD in exports.

As the market launches and matures, subscribers to New Frontier Data’s business intelligence platform, Equio, can track progress via the Global Dashboard.

Those are welcome numbers for cannabis firms in Colombia and Uruguay, both of which anticipate big opportunities in Argentina and Brazil. With some 3 million consumers and an estimated illicit market worth $2.5 billion USD, Argentina ranks as the region’s distantly second-largest market after Brazil. While the size of its medical market will be heavily influenced by forthcoming regulations, patients suffering from recognized pathologies including chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, and sleep disorders will all benefit from increased access to medical products.

Unfortunately, the team led by Kulfas was unable to include a mechanism for the distribution of medicinal flower. Consequently, a significant slice of the market (well suited for small- and medium-sized firms) will remain in the shadows of an illicit market featuring smuggled cannabis grown in Paraguay.