Panama’s national assembly formally approved a bill last week that will make medical marijuana legal in the country. While the bill still needs to be approved by President Laurentino Cortizo, it marks a step forward for a long campaign to bring Panama’s cannabis policy in line with countries around the world.
The bill passed unanimously passed a bill on Monday and will set up a system for patients to register for cannabis medication and permit further research on the drug. Panama is the first nation in Central America to approve medical marijuana, according to Reuters, but it joins countries around the world that recognize cannabis as a useful treatment for many patients.
To be clear, the law only covers medical marijuana, not recreational use. And there are still a wide variety of restrictions, including a prohibition on commercial use of homegrown cannabis. The bill also requires officials to import cannabis only in pill and liquid drop form.
The bill gives Panama’s Ministry of Health the authority to distribute medication and license pharmacies. To become licensed, pharmacies will need to apply for a permit and pass a site inspection.
Assembly President Crispiano Adames hailed the bill as “innovative,” citing multiple ailments that can be treated with cannabis once the proposal becomes law. The motto of the bill was, “for a day without pain.” Adames said that the bill’s language was designed to prevent future smuggling by requiring a controlled environment.