Paraguay will begin accepting applications for the domestic production of cannabis for medical and research purposes next month, according to an announcement made last week by the country’s health minister. Julio Mazzolini, the minister of public health and social welfare, said in a press conference in Asunción on Thursday that a resolution to establish the rules to apply for the country’s first commercial cannabis production licenses had been approved by the ministry.

Licenses for five vertically integrated cannabis cultivation and manufacturing operations will be available. The National Health Surveillance (Dirección Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria/DNVS) will accept applications for the five licenses from October 1 through 31. Applicants will be required to include a certificate of good manufacturing practices; a plan for cannabis cultivation, transportation, and security; and a separate plan for exports, if applicable. The applicants that are awarded the licenses will be required to put them into use within 24 months.

Arnaldo Giuzzio, the chief of Paraguay’s anti-drug agency (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas/SENAD), told the press that licenses would only be available to operations located in the Central Department, the smallest but most populated of Paraguay’s 17 departments.

Medical Cannabis Legalized in 2017

Paraguay legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2017 and a decree to regulate the national program was approved the following year. Qualifying participants under the national program are guaranteed free access to hemp oil and other cannabis derivatives.

Under the decree, licensed manufacturers will be required to donate 2% of their production to the Ministry of Health, a provision reiterated by Mazzolini at Thursday’s press conference. The ministry will distribute the products to domestic patients with a proven scientific need free of charge.

Only patients with a condition for which there is scientific evidence that cannabis may be a beneficial treatment will be eligible for the national program. The nature and amount of required evidence are not clear. So far, the use of medical cannabis has been approved for the treatment of refractory seizures, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other qualifying pain conditions.

Outside of the national program, a few patients who have demonstrated an exceptional need have received authorization to import cannabis products for medical purposes. One such patient is an adolescent with a rare form of severe epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Also last Thursday, Paraguay’s Senate approved a bill that would permit the possession and home cultivation of medical cannabis for qualified patients and caregivers under certain conditions. The bill must also be approved by the country’s Chamber of Deputies before becoming law.

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