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Caregivers hope for looser marijuana laws in Mexico

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Alondra Peña Pech, 20, is cared for by her parents, but the price of an imported cannabis-based drug is prohibitive. Photo: Desde el Balcon

Mérida, Yucatán — A 20-year-old Yucatecan epilepsy patient, and her caregiver parents, hope that Mexico’s legislature will continue advancing a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

The woman, Alondra Peña Pech, has special permission to use a cannabis-based drug, but the doses are expensive. Once stocked by pharmacies, prices would likely decline. 

Mexico’s Senate this week, possibly after noticing the trend in the U.S. and other countries, approved the use of cannabis for medical purposes after voting overwhelmingly in favor of more relaxed drug laws.

The bill must also be passed by Mexico’s lower house to become law. The president has indicated he will sign the measure into law.

The bill passed by the senate envisages permitting use of products containing the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

It establishes that industrial products with concentrations of 1 percent THC or less would be legal to buy, sell, import and export.

Recreational marijuana is still broadly prohibited in Mexico, but last year the Supreme Court granted four people the right to grow their own cannabis for personal consumption, opening the door to legalization.

Since a court ruling last year, the government has allowed the importation on a case-by-case basis of medicine with cannabidiol (CBD), an active chemical ingredient of the drug.

First in the state

Alondra Peña Pech, the young Yucatecan patient, was the first in the state approved for CBD. In all, four families in Yucatán are permitted to receive the medication for refractory epilipsy.

She suffers from refractory epilepsy, or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and is prone to about 70 attacks a day. Since she was a girl, surgeries and other medications have not relieved her suffering.

The medicine has no psychotropic effects,  Dr. Garza Morales told the Sipse news agency.

But 236 ml. bottles of TCH, imported from the U.S., are costly at $499 USD, or 9,474 pesos, plus import costs and duties. 

They pay the price because the medicine has been the most effective of anything they have tried, reducing her seizures to 25 a day.

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