The not-so-peculiar tale of marijuana, Morales and the governor’s son
The Security Ministry’s recent authorisation of Argentina’s first and the world’s largest cannabis farm in Jujuy paves the way for a new export industry in Argentina – but it has also caused controversy.
The Security Ministry’s recent
authorisation of Argentina’s
first and the world’s largest cannabis farm in Jujuy paves the way
for a new export industry in Argentina – but it has also caused
controversy, with accusations of
nepotism and conflict with the
government’s drug policy coming to the fore.
The announcement comes in
the midst of an aggressive war on
drugs launched by President
Mauricio Macri’s government,
which has regularly sought to
publicise the Security Ministry’s
record of arresting drug-traffickers and its seizure of illegal drug
shipments. Set in that context, the
move to grant Jujuy province the
first license to produce marijuana in the country – albeit for medicinal use – unsurprisingly raised a number of eyebrows.
But even more surprising was
one of the faces behind the project: one Gastón Morales – the son
of Jujuy province Governor Gerardo Morales.
The pilot programme, a joint
venture between the US company Green Leaf Farms and Morales’ firm Cannabis Avatara,
will purportedly use between 5 to
15 hectares of provincial government land to produce and cultivate cannabis.
According to the parent company of Green Leaf Farms,
Player’s Network Inc, the project
will eventually be the largest legal cannabis cultivation project
in the world, almost 1,000 times
greater than the largest legal cannabis farm in the United States.
Player’s Network, which was previously engaged in projects in
California, has pulled out a planned acquisition to focus its business on Argentina.
It was last August that Governor Morales submitted a request
for a cannabis farm licence, requesting to study and investigate
the medical use of marijuana,
derivatives and other non-conventional medical treatment under Law 27.350, put into effect in
2017. The Security Ministry said
that before granting the licence,
it carried out an exhaustive technical analysis with federal forces,
concluding that the proposed site, the Pongo farm based in the
Jujuy town of Perico, had the necessary security and fulfilled the
legal national and provincial requirements. Now with the licence
in hand, the development of the
pilot programme is underway.
“The joint venture is expected
to be completed in June and will
have the necessary conditions to
start cultivating marijuana at an
industrial scale of over 500 hectares in the next five years and
begin producing oils for medical
purposes by August, November,”
Morales said in an interview with
The first wave of production
will have between 20 and 30 different varieties of medical marijuana, according to Morales. He
also stressed that what is grown
at the firm will be used for medical purposes, though the Players
Company has said other uses are
also in mined.
In a press release published last
November, the firm wrote: “The
joint venture has obtained permits to cultivate, extract, manufacture and export cannabis-based products to other countries
where such products are legal.”
Exports will include industrial
hemp, medical and adult use marijuana to the United States, Canada, and other emerging international markets, reports have
While some experts rushed to
praise the government for evaluating the market and potential
products, others have criticised
the use of public resources for the
gains of a private company.
“The law suggests that the Institute of National Farming Production Technology (INTA),
Argentina’s Research Institute,
CONICET, and public laboratories would dedicate themselves to
the production of cannabis,” physiological sciences doctor Luis
Acosta told Perfil.
Acosta explained that the problem is that key government organisations aren’t involved because they are underfunded, have been dismantled or now don’t
“Instead the government is forming agreements with foreign
companies – such as the case with
the son of the Governor of Jujuy
- where the state provides land
and security while they obtain
revenue,” the doctor explained.