On December 24, 2019 the Organic Law amending the Organic Comprehensive Criminal Code was published in the Official Register. One of the most important changes is the exclusion of non-psychoactive cannabis (hemp) from the list of narcotic and psychoactive controlled substances.

Specifically, the National Assembly has ordered the inclusion of the following general provision in the Drug Prevention Law (‘Organic Law on the Comprehensive Prevention of the Socioeconomic Phenomenon of Drugs and Regulation and the Control and Use of Controlled Substances’):

“The controlled substances list shall not include non-psychoactive cannabis or hemp, which shall be understood as the Cannabis plant and any part of such plant whose dry weight concentration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is below 1%, and it is regulated by the National Agricultural Authority.”

In line with the above, article 220 of the Criminal Code has also been amended, and provides that the following is no longer punishable “the holding or possession of drugs containing the active ingredient of cannabis or its derivatives for therapeutic, palliative or medicinal purposes or for the practice of alternative medicine […], provided that a disease is proven through professional diagnosis.” Thus, both the production and consumption of hemp in Ecuador have been decriminalized – with obvious restrictions.

These amendments will enter into force in mid-2020 on June 24. Notwithstanding the foregoing, and for optimum application, the legislative branch has ordered the National Agricultural Authority to issue the necessary regulations by October 2020. The new regulations will be added to the already existing authorization for the production, marketing and use of products with controlled substances for therapeutic or research purposes established in the Drug Prevention Law.

This opens up new opportunities for the industry in Ecuador.

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