Argentina’s newly established regulatory body for cannabis is supervising numerous research and development initiatives with the aim of entering the potentially profitable market for cannabis exports. By 2025, the Argentine government aims to generate $500 million in domestic cannabis sales and $50 million in exports.
Although the recreational use of cannabis is prohibited, individuals in Argentina can cultivate their plants for medicinal purposes. The government is considering expanding the number of private companies authorized to manufacture cannabis, as this industry has significant potential. The newly established cannabis regulatory body’s director, Gabriel Gimenez, stated that 51 research and development initiatives are being supervised nationwide. Furthermore, the National Seed Institute has authorized the usage of 13 varieties of traceable cannabis seeds.
Argentina aims to earn foreign currency and create 10,000 employment opportunities through exports. Presently, cannabis-derived products are available in pharmacies in the country, and insurers have been instructed to provide coverage for prescription medications containing cannabis.
In 2021, Pampa Hemp became the first private enterprise to receive authorization from Argentina’s Ministry of Health. They commenced the cultivation of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis at a lab based in Buenos Aires province. According to Pablo Fazio, co-founder of Pampa Hemp and President of the Argentine Chamber of Cannabis (ARGENCANN), the demand for products manufactured from cannabis may create a new domestic industry. He remarked that this development alone could be revolutionary.
Located in Santa Fe province, the medical cannabis research and development center (CIDCam) has over 200 cannabis plants of diverse strains. A second harvest is scheduled for this month, and the center intends to assist producers in experimenting with various types of cannabis.
Discussions about cannabis in Argentina intensified in May of last year when President Alberto Fernández implemented Law 27.669. This law established a regulatory structure for private and public investment across the cannabis value chain. It supplemented another law from 2017 that promoted medical and scientific research on cannabis but restricted production to the federal government solely for health-related ideals.
According to a report issued by the Argentine government, cannabis has a complex structure due to the existence of over 550 chemical compounds. The most extensively studied compounds are cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the plant’s well-known psychoactive effect, and CBD has attracted significant interest among scientists as a potential treatment for anxiety, autism, insomnia, and other conditions.
According to the report, the possibilities for growth in this industry go beyond the medical and recreational markets. Other applications include cosmetics, textile clothing, fibers, footwear, animal feed, biofuels, construction materials, fertilizers, paper, and automotive parts.
There exist three primary systems for cannabis cultivation: indoor, outdoor, and mixed light, which combines aspects of both indoor and outdoor production. Each of these methods can potentially impact the environment in distinct ways.
Indoor cultivation systems, for instance, necessitate more external inputs, especially electricity, which is why various studies have emphasized their substantial carbon footprint. According to a paper published in Nature Sustainability, the emissions linked with cultivating one kilogram of cannabis indoors are approximately equivalent to burning 2,000 liters of gasoline. Another study estimated that the carbon footprint of extensive indoor cannabis production ranges between 2.2 and 5.1 metric tons of CO2 per kilogram of dried flower.
On the other hand, outdoor cultivation necessitates up to 140 times less electricity, as per a study conducted by the Cannabis Environmental Best Practices Task Force in Oregon, United States. However, the same study highlights water usage concerns: a fully-grown cannabis plant can consume up to 22.7 liters of water per day during the 150-day growing season, nearly twice the amount required by a grapevine.
Several studies carried out in California have raised additional concerns. One study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment warns about the risk of deforestation and habitat fragmentation resulting from commercial cannabis production. Another study published in Environmental Research Communications highlights significant impacts on water resources due to increased cannabis cultivation, indicating that water depletion is a current and future concern.
Although there are environmental risks associated with cannabis cultivation, the plant also offers environmental benefits. Researcher Darshil Shah from Cambridge University has pointed out that cannabis can sequester atmospheric carbon doubly effectively as forests and provide carbon-negative biomaterials for architects and designers.
According to the president of Mexico’s National Cannabis Industry Association, Guillermo Nieto, hemp can help mitigate the negative environmental impacts of agriculture. Nieto highlights that hemp fibers can replace several raw materials, including fabric, paper, and plastic, and can be used to produce biodegradable products. He also notes that producing a kilo of hemp fibers requires 20 times less water than a kilo of cotton. Nieto shared these insights with Forbes.
The years of prohibition in Argentina have resulted in a lack of scientific research on the environmental impacts of cannabis production in the country. The director of the civil association Proyecto Cáñamo, Diana Barreneche, says that although cultivation has been around for a long time, it is only recently that it has been reintroduced. The country is still in the early stages of research.
However, while international studies provide some background information, not everyone agrees with their conclusions. The director of the Diploma in Cannabis Production and Regulation at the National University of Rosario, Bruno Cravero, notes that some studies are controversial and still in a grey area.
Argentina’s legalization of cannabis cultivation is still in its early phases, and favorable and unfavorable environmental effects could result. While some studies have emphasized the significant carbon footprint of indoor farming, other research has demonstrated the plant’s capacity to capture atmospheric carbon and produce sustainable biomaterials. It will be crucial to carefully assess and avoid any potential adverse environmental repercussions while also studying the potential benefits of this adaptable plant as Argentina’s cannabis sector develops.
In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growth, sale, and consumption of cannabis, while Paraguay is also exploring the legalization of cultivation for medical purposes. Across Latin America, countries have been progressively relaxing restrictions on the cultivation, distribution, and use of cannabis. (Full Story)