BARRIO – (Reuters) A marijuana harvest festival in a region of Paraguay usually known for drug trafficking has sparked hopes from local farmers that legalization could follow that will allow them to grow the plant for medicinal use.
The rural community of Aguerito, in eastern Paraguay, welcomed hundreds of visitors over the weekend for a “cannabis tour” of farms that are operating in a gray area: cannabis for medicinal use has been legal in the country since 2017, but it must be imported. Local cultivation is not currently authorized.
The farmers who hosted the event are part of a group who have abandoned traditional agriculture, gambling on growing weed. They hope the festival will catch the eye of lawmakers, encouraging them to back new legislation to help small farms.
A bill aiming to regularize the budding industry, from seeds to sale, was presented to Congress at the end of 2022, but it is unclear if it will pass.
Paraguay is already a major global producer of illegally-sold cannabis, exporting largely to neighbouring Brazil and other South American countries.
“There was already marijuana in the area when we arrived here 32 years ago,” said farmer Eulalio Lopez. “But we were afraid to work with it, we didn’t even talk about it back then. It was just a ‘weed.'”
Just a handful of labs import cannabis into Paraguay for legal medicinal use, but sell it at exorbitant prices, said Jorge Rolon, the farmers’ legal adviser.
“Our country has tremendous potential,” he said, touting the South American nation’s rich soil and potent product. “It’s an opportunity Paraguay can’t miss.”