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Paraguay Congress Legalizes Planting of Medical Marijuana

FILE - A man waves a flag during a rally against drug trafficking and in favor of the legalization of self-cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in Santiago, Chile, April 20, 2017. Paraguay took a step Tuesday to make medicinal marijuana more readily available.

Paraguay's Congress passed a bill Tuesday creating a state-sponsored system to import marijuana seeds and grow the plant for medical uses, a decision that followed other countries in Latin America.

The landlocked South American nation had authorized the importing of cannabis oil in May, under control of the health ministry, and Tuesday's decision was celebrated by patients and their loved ones for making it more readily available.

"We are very happy because this will also allow for the import of seeds for oil production," said Roberto Cabanas, vice president of Paraguay's medicinal cannabis organization. His daughter has Dravet syndrome and the family was paying $300 a month for imported cannabis oil.

Peru, Chile, Argentina and Colombia had already legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Uruguay has fully legalized growing and selling marijuana for any use.

The bill will likely be signed into law by the executive as it was supported by the health ministry.

Growing marijuana for recreational purposes in Paraguay is illegal, yet the country is a key source of illegal marijuana trafficked into Brazil and Argentina.