Panama has adopted medical cannabis regulations, after becoming the first Central American country to legalize medical cannabis in October 2021, pursuant to Law 242. The regulations take the form of a decree issued by President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, which “regulates the use and access to the product and its derivatives, for therapeutic, medical, veterinary, scientific and research purposes throughout the country.”
The new regulations establish responsibilities for different government agencies, primarily the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Agricultural Development. Import and export activities require approval for the National Directorate of Pharmacies and Drugs.
In addition, the decree lists the health conditions for which the use of medical cannabis use may be authorized. Any doctor licensed in Panama can prescribe cannabis, provided they have been certified by the Health Ministry as having received specialized training. The decree also establishes a patient registry.
A second decree issued by President Cortizo Cohen establishes the National Directorate for the Monitoring of Activities Related to Medicinal Cannabis (Dirección Nacional para el Monitoreo de las Actividades Relacionadas con el Cannabis Medicinal), which will be under the supervision of Panama’s Ministry of Public Safety and draw staff from a number of law enforcement agencies.
Among other tasks, the directorate is tasked with establishing “the safety requirements for the handling, transportation, storage and location of the areas and buildings that will be used to manufacture or carry out scientific research on medicinal cannabis.” It is also responsible for issuing licenses for medical cannabis production, as well as setting out the security protocols for such activities.
With the issuance of regulations, Panama now has a full legal framework in place for medical cannabis. It is hoped that the country’s experience will spur further reform in Central America. In fact, less than a year after the signing of Law 242, medical cannabis was legalized in neighboring Costa Rica, where regulations will soon go into effect.