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The Americas Got Greener: Panama Legalized Medical Cannabis

medical cannabis Panama
Written by Sarah Friedman

Technically it’s a part of North America, but whether considered North America, South America or Central America, the Americas in general sure got greener when Panama legalized medical cannabis late last month.

Yet another country has fallen, at least partly, now that Panama has legalized medical cannabis. Whether you’re looking for medical help, or a recreational good time, having good products is important. From standard cannabis, to compounds like delta-8 THC (an alternate form of THC from regular delta-9), there is an abundance of new possibilities in the cannabis world. You can go ahead and check out our selection of deals for delta-8 THC, delta 10, thcv, thcp, thc-o, hhc and even hemp-derived delta-9 THC and many other products, to see just how expansive this new world has become.

Cannabis laws in Panama

Panama isn’t a country with a whole lot written on it in the press concerning its cannabis laws, and drug laws in general. One thing to remember about Panama, is that it’s located at the southern tip of Central America, next to Colombia, and is therefore a main point for the trafficking of cocaine. For that reason, Panama has had, and still does have, lots of issues with drug violence. Possibly directly because of this, drug crimes are taken seriously in the country, and even small amounts can warrant heavy punishments.

A person can be arrested simply for being with another person who is using drugs. Prison sentences for drug charges can go up to 15 years, depending on the specifics of the crime, and the judicial process is slow, with it often taking as long as two years before getting in front of a judge for sentencing. Check points can often be seen on intercity highways to catch drug users and traffickers, particularly on the weekends. Having said all this, laws concerning small-time cannabis crimes are often not enforced, and the general public is accepting of cannabis use.

Prior to recent changes, the production, sale, possession, and use of cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes, was 100% illegal. Change started in 2016 when President Juan Carlos Varela signed legislation opening the door for a future medical market. This did not actually legalize it in any way, but now five years later, that law has been used to enact new legislation.

Panama legalized medical cannabis

I should point out before moving on, that all information stated about criminal penalties is from non-government sites, with no official confirmation aside from the general illegal status of the plant.

Panama has now legalized medical cannabis

On Monday August 30th, 2021, Panama’s National Assembly passed a bill unanimously (44 yes, 0 no) to open a regulated medical cannabis industry. It is now, in fact, the first of the Central American countries to do so, joining fellow North American neighbors Mexico, Canada, and the US, as well as fellow South American countries: Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and more.

This has been a five-year struggle, and the legislation, Bill 153 passed during its third debate in the Assembly. The tag-line to the initiative: ‘for a day without pain’ was apparently a great marketing tool, and helped to sway several legislators. Crispiano Adames, President of the National Assembly, had promoted the bill in order to give medical cannabis access in a responsible way, to the people of Panama. He also showed another reason for the legalization, when he stated that he hoped the bill would prevent smuggling in the future by creating a more controlled environment.

Officially, the bill allows the controlled cannabis use “for therapeutic, medical, veterinary, scientific and research purposes”, as per the text of the bill. Research would be conducted under the National Program for the Study of the Medicinal Use of Cannabis and its Derivatives. Though the bill has now passed the legislature in Panama, is still requires a signature by President Laurentino Cortizo before officially passing into law.

What does the new law permit?

Every country to set up a legalization policy, does so with its own specific laws and requirements. In terms of the Panama bill which just legalized medical cannabis, here are some of the benefits of it, and the regulation requirements that go with it. In the case of Panama, there are certain elements that make this law a bit different than other medical cannabis laws in other countries.

For one thing, cannabis can only be imported for medical purposes in pill and liquid form, which means medical use of flowers, other forms of concentrates, and the ability for other delivery methods, will not be possible with anything imported into the country. It takes time to set up cultivation in a country after laws like this pass, and until there is operational production in Panama, pills and liquids will be the only options for medical patients.

cannabis medicine

Concerning the new medical cannabis cultivation market in Panama under the new bill, all growing, production, commercial use, exporting, and importing of cannabis and derivatives will be done via licenses granted by the government. As of right now, the new law only permits seven licenses for the production of cannabis derivatives.

It can be cultivated in specific and approved areas where there is not much access. Only pharmaceutical companies, or other companies in the therapeutic services space, will have the ability to obtain licenses, or use commercial marketing. Any illegal production and sale will incur punishment of 10-15 years in jail, meaning anything home-cultivated cannot be used commercially.

This also means acquiring products from the internet is illegal, as well as buying from unauthorized sellers. It will also be illegal to advertise such products on social media networks, with medical journals being the only place for such marketing. The Ministry of Health in Panama will oversee medical cannabis distribution to pharmacies. Pharmacies can gain licensing to sell medical cannabis products by applying for a permit and passing a site inspection.

In terms of exporting, it will be legal for licensed companies to export plant material, seeds, and derivatives. Interested exporters will need to submit their plans, have buyers, and register those buyers with the country’s regulators.

In order to receive treatment under Panama’s new bill which legalized medical cannabis, patients will have to be authorized and join a registry. Multiple medical issues are treatable with cannabis medications once the bill is officially signed off on. Medical issues that are mentioned under the new bill include: glaucoma, epilepsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, migraines, seizure disorders, pain of different kinds, pain caused by cancer.

Cannabis in Latin America

Latin America is actually one of the regions of the world where there has been a lot of improvement in cannabis law. For one thing, two of the four countries with recreational legalizations are in Latin America. Uruguay was first to legalize back in 2013, and Mexico became the fourth country to allow recreational adult-use and cultivation, when the Supreme Court officially dropped laws of prohibition in 2021.

cannabis latin america

There are several other countries in Latin American that haven’t gotten as far as recreational legalizations, but which have passed medical ones. Panama’s bill that legalized medical cannabis, puts it in line with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile, and with Uruguay and Mexico which also have medical legalizations.

Plus, Costa Rica, which is already a very lax country when it comes to cannabis, with only vague rules on the books with no criminal penalties attached to personal consumption, is on its way to pushing through an official medical cannabis legalization bill. Then there’s Venezuela, a country that has heavy decriminalization measures for personal use, which would allow those with medical issues to access cannabis without fear of imprisonment.

Chile and Colombia are both in positions to go for legalized recreational cannabis, and may be the next countries to do so. Chile is actually writing up an entirely new constitution, which many expect will come with a recreational legalization of cannabis for adult-use, or laws that can get the country there faster. Colombia has already attempted a recreational legalization which was voted down last year, as it required a constitutional amendment. A new bill in the country’s Senate is currently in play, which would legalize recreational cannabis through regulation, rather than constitutionally.


Though the new bill in Panama which legalized medical cannabis passed the General Assembly, it does require the president’s signature. As there has been no commentary insinuating this could be a problem, the bill is expected to pass into law shortly. There is no current news out about Panama seeking anything further at the moment, like a recreational legalization. However, it’s great that yet another country has seen fit to begin the process of ending prohibition, and will now allow its sick to access new, possibly better, and likely safer, medications.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.