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Mama Cultiva & the battle for cannabis legalization

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When it comes to cannabis activism, there are groups around the world who are fighting against the governments and public sentiments of the countries they live in. However, one group stands out from the rest. A group of mothers trying to help their sick children and making change in the process. When it comes to activism, Mama Cultiva fights hard for cannabis legalization.

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The beginning in Chile & a sick 7 year old child

The biggest chapter of Mama Cultiva is currently in Argentina, but the story of Mama Cultiva and the struggle to legalize cannabis begins in Chile as early as 2014. It was founded by Paulina Bobadilla, a mother to an epileptic daughter, Javiera, who no longer responded to medication to stop her seizures in 2014, and who was in so much pain and numb that she accidentally felt herself tore off the fingernails.

Already, Bobadilla was struggling to spend the $ 800 a month on these drugs that didn't even work and had to sell her hair salon to make payments. Javiera was given a few drops of cannabis oil a day when she was seven, and according to Bobadilla, her seizures dropped from about seven a day to one, she was able to sleep, and general irritability decreased. Bobadilla said positive results started within a week.

In September 2014, Bobadilla's brother was arrested for helping her buy about 20 grams after running out of cannabis to treat her daughter. They were stopped in a car in which Bobadilla's brother took responsibility for the cannabis and was charged with "micro-trafficking". This means that if convicted, he would have to spend at least 561 days in prison. I couldn't find any information about the outcome of the case.

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Children with epilepsy

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A few other examples of early group members include Gabriela Reyes, who had a son only seven months old in 2014 who had up to 300 epileptic seizures a day. When her son stopped responding fully to medication, she was told he was an incurable patient and would essentially die. Reyes found out about cannabis oil as an alternative treatment and started putting it in the child's bottle. His seizures dropped from 300 to about 12 a day. At this point, he could eat normally. Reyes firmly believes that cannabis saved her son's life.

Another mother, who would just name her first name Susana, cultivated with her husband in 2014 to make oil for her son with epilepsy. She said that growing can be very slow at times, and the couple (and other families) would often buy off the streets if needed. This sometimes meant being taken advantage of by traders or selling the wrong plant (male instead of female). For mothers like Susana, learning things like how to reproduce plants in a Mama Cultiva workshop helped them get better growth so as not to need outside help that are less reliable.

Understanding the illegality of her actions, Bobadilla formed the Mama Cultiva group with other parents in similar situations so they could discuss cultivation methods for growing cannabis to help their sick children. These parents kept meeting and secretly growing, even with the risk of 15 years in prison over their heads and the reality of the arrest of Bobadilla's own brother.

At the time, not only did they secretly start growing marijuana as it was illegal to grow cannabis under Chilean government law, but Mama Cultiva also pushed for medical cannabis legalization that would allow their children to do so without breaking the law . At this point, the House Health Commission had already passed home-growing laws in these cases, but Congress had not yet passed them. When Mama Cultiva held her first event, she attracted 11 families. Over 100 families were involved in the second event.

And today…

The early members of Mama Cultiva used social networks like Facebook to find each other and get together. As they grew, neighboring countries established their own chapters across Latin America. Now Mama Cultiva is a nonprofit that aims to help people suffering from diseases and disorders such as epilepsy, cancer, autism and a host of other illnesses for which cannabis has been shown to be useful and for which standard western treatments are available are not working. The organization guides families through the process of therapeutic acquisition and use of cannabis and advocates legalized self-cultivation as well as legal medical and recreational programs in South America.

For many looking to use cannabis for medicine, this is new territory, where illegal action is often taken, and Mama Cultiva is helping families with this. The group is also dedicated to educating the public about medical cannabis in general and holds workshops, courses and seminars on the subject. In recent years, the group has been officially operational, helping those in need, and has been instrumental in passing laws to legalize cannabis in various countries. Even in countries where medical legalization measures have been passed, the infrastructure is often so poor (or nonexistent) that drugs are still not widely available, causing many of them to grow themselves and seek help from Mama Cultiva.

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Gabriela Cancellaro, Communications Director for the Argentine Chapter of Mama Cultiva, said: "Self-cultivation is still a debt of our governments to their societies as it is still prosecuted and punished in most Latin American countries."

How they helped

Mama Cultiva activism can be seen across South America. When Argentina legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2017, Mama Cultiva is said to have had a huge impact on the passage of those laws, although the group was dismayed that home-growing was not legalized at the time. The group participated in discussions to prepare draft laws for Decree 2020 that would finally legalize home growing for medical purposes.

Part of what made this possible was the change in presidents from Mauricio Macri, who was in office for the 2017 passage of law but did very little to make anything accessible to anyone, Alberto Fernandez, whose government began work on regulations that are more revealing allow more accessibility.

Mama Cultiva is very active in Paraguay. In 2019, the activist group distributed free cannabis seeds for growing hemp to sick children. They did so in a public square in the capital, Asuncion, and it was intended to both help spread the skill of medicine and pressure the government to legalize self-cultivation for medical purposes. This government is currently led by President Mario Abdo Benítez. His predecessor, President Horacio Cartes, passed a medical cannabis law, but it was never effective as a legal framework was never put in place.

As of 2020, a current law going through the Paraguayan government called the "Mama Cultiva Law" seeks to decriminalize the cultivation, harvest and production of cannabis oil for home growers, which in turn would loosen the current law's ownership limit, which is 10 grams amounts. A translation of the amended text looks something like this: "Anyone who has in their possession substances referred to in this Act, which the doctor has prescribed, or who has them for their exclusive personal use, is from the Punishment exempt. "

Back in Chile, where the group originated, Mama Cultiva has worked with other groups such as the Daya Foundation and Movimental to encourage more freedom for cannabis use, especially for medicinal purposes. Chile has medical legalization (and a decriminalization measure that has been in government channels since 2015 but has not yet been passed), but the lack of access has sparked protests literally every year.

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Cannabis activists

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In 2019 up to 80,000 demonstrators marched in Santiago for the "Cultivate Your Rights" march organized by the above groups. One of the main problems is the swift passage of the Safe Growing Act, which would prevent medical patients from having their home grown crops confiscated by the government. The pressure from these groups seems to be moving things, albeit slowly.

Stories can be found in all the countries the group operates in, such as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay.

Effects of Covid

One of the many disasters caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – or rather the response to it – is that most of Mama Cultiva's activities have had to stop the flow of income to the group that keeps it operational. As should be expected of a group known for pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box, Mama Cultiva shifted their struggle to places like Instagram and used it as a platform to educate about cultivation and general marijuana philosophy .

In fact, Mama Cultiva used the pandemic as another reason to push for legalization. Mama Cultiva Argentina founder and director Valeria Salech stated, “In times like these, we find comfort in knowing that we can grow our own therapeutic products in our backyards. Now, more than ever, we want to emphasize the importance of sanitary autonomy by growing marijuana at home. "

Even so, these are difficult times for an organization that is doing everything it can to help the public. Anyone who wants to donate to the cause and keep these fighters going can do so through their website: here.


When it comes to cannabis heroes of history, Mama Cultiva as a group has been one of the most influential units fighting in the battle for legalization. Across South America this group has engaged in legislative processes, organized protests, educated the public, and risked the freedom of its own members to help sick children and people across the continent. Mama Cultiva led the fight for cannabis legalization not just to get high and sell products, but also to find an actual, legitimate way to save and improve lives.

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