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Chileans appeal for marijuana decriminalisation

posted 17 Nov 2012, 17:35 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 17 Nov 2012, 17:36 ]

Thousands in Santiago are part of the first Chilean Expo-Weed calling for the decriminalisation of marijuana.

SANTIAGOCHILE (NOVEMBER 17, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Thousands of cannabis enthusiasts picnicked in Santiago de Chile on Saturday (November 17) in the first Chilean Expo-Weed to call for the decriminalisation of marijuana in the country.

In a peaceful environment, thousands of adults gathered at O'Higgins Park, in the capital Santiago, to give out information and to answer questions to those interested in their position regarding the debate on the new drug legislation presented in Congress that has gained momentum in recent months in the country.

Two liberal Senators, Fulvio Rossi and Ricard Lagos, proposed a bill to legalisecannabis last July taking concrete steps towards legalising the medical and recreational use of marijuana, as well as the public cultivation of the plant.

"It is time for us as a society in development and as matured people to think and realise the need legalise it. It is in the interest of the masses here in this gathering as you can see. This is a demonstration, a picnic, the first ever Expo-Weed here," said Paolo, member of the Chilean Friends of Cannabis group while he stood beside a bulletin board set with informational pamphlets about the new proposed legislation and the benefits of marijuana use.

Franscisca Florenzano, National Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Rehabilitation Service Director, said the legislation submitted to Congress should not be considered. For her, the focus should remain on prevention and rehabilitation programs instead.

"We know that at a younger age the use of marijuana has negative aspects as such as difficulty to concentrate. The use accompanies sometimes school drop out. The use of marihuana and other drugs it is also manifested in correlation to other mental illnesses," she said.

The latest cannabis-specific legislation in Chile was approved in 2005, after a failed bill was proposed in 2003 partially decriminalising marijuana for personal and private consumption. The legislation penalised its use in groups and the growth of the plant and its delivery and sale in any form.

Doctor Sergio Sanchez from the University of Chile said medical cannabis is technically legal whether there is a legal framework attached to it or not.

"I invite people to express the need to say what they have to say openly to discuss with scientific evidences the suggested positive medical paradigm. Let's do it and let's find conclusions. Let's allow people to get informed and educated on the subject and let's allow people the liberty to be autonomous without any fear," said Sanchez.

It is still unclear how successful the new proposed bill by Senators Rossi and Lagos would undergo its scrutiny in Congress while public opinion seems to favour change byCongress next November 21.