Written by: Xavier Valverde Carcach 

Hoban Law Group

After several years of struggle by countless pro-cannabis groups and professionals interested in this new industry, the National Assembly of Ecuador (“Asamblea Nacional”) heard the voice of those who trust hemp as an alternative for the agricultural sector of our country. So, on September 17, 2019 with 85 votes in favor, the amendments to the Integral Organic Criminal Code (“Código Orgánico Integral Penal”) articles were approved with respect to substances subject to control. The amendment was published on December 24, 2019 and will come into effect after 180 days of said publication.

Integral Organic Criminal Code Amendment

On one hand, the amendment decriminalizes the sowing, growing and harvesting of cannabis, as long as competent authority issues an authorization for therapeutic or medical-scientific research purposes and for non-pharmaceutical industrial use, non-medical scientific research, or training, within the legal framework of the 2015 provisions by the Organic Law of Integral Prevention of the Socio-economic Phenomenon of Drugs and of Regulation and Use Control of the Listed Substances Subject to Control (“Ley Orgánica de Prevención Integral del Fenómeno Socio Económico de las Drogas y de Regulación y Control del Uso de Sustancias Catalogadas Sujetas a Fiscalización”).

On the other hand, the Integral Organic Criminal Code amendment embraces the global trend and recognizes hemp as a different crop from the rest of cannabis, understanding that the purpose is to differentiate it from marijuana. Also, it established a distinction for hemp from the rest of the Cannabis species, whenever it has a content less than 1% of THC, ordering its removal from the listed substances subject to control.

Global Trend Towards Legalization of Cannabis Crops

This represents a great first step to include Ecuador among the South American countries that have followed the global trend towards legalization of cannabis crops, specifically hemp.

Once the amendment came into effect on June 21, 2020 our sights are focused on the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (“Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería”), since one of the Integral Organic Criminal Code amended provisions provides that such authority must issue the corresponding regulations regarding hemp. To this end, the Ministry has a term of one hundred and twenty days to comply with the issuance of the proper regulations. We will continue to monitor these developments and keep you up to date regarding regulations and opportunities in Ecuador.