Unlike many other South American countries, hemp was not introduced to Ecuador directly. Instead, surplus hemp from surrounding countries like Chile and Peru was passed on to Ecuador.
As the Spanish came to Chile, they needed hemp to make rope and rigging for their boats. This led to widespread hemp flower cultivation and Chile, so much so that the country had excess hemp soon. This had to be passed onto other countries, one of which was Ecuador.
If you live in Ecuador or plan to visit it, and are wondering what its hemp laws are, the following is a detailed guide to make things safe and easy for you!
The History of Hemp in Ecuador
Ecuador has a long history of hemp flower cultivation until the 1980s when the country began to clamp down on hemp cultivation and use. However, during the 1980s, hemp laws weren’t as strict as they were in later years.
Early hemp laws didn’t call for prison for hemp users. Instead, these people were assessed medically and treated accordingly. In other words, Ecuador looked at hemp use as an illness rather than a crime in the 1980s. But this wasn’t to be the case for long.
In 1991, Ecuador introduced Law 108. This law was far harsher than the county’s previous hemp laws, and under it, even people caught with a small amount of hemp were given the same punishments as large-scale drug traffickers.
Part of this persecution arose from the government’s failure to distinguish between marijuana and hemp flowers. So, what is the difference?
Hemp vs Marijuana
Unfortunately, the difference between hemp flowers and marijuana isn’t physical. If you were to look at both the plants side by side, you wouldn’t notice a difference in how they look and smell. Indeed, this similarity between the two has been misused by many farmers and drug peddlers in the past.
Because the two look completely alike, drug peddlers have often grown and sold marijuana under the pretense of growing hemp. This has led many governments (including that of Ecuador) to treat hemp with full legal wrath and ban it altogether.
The real difference between hemp and marijuana lies in their THC concentration. THC is a psychoactive substance that’s responsible for making people feel “high” and addicted to marijuana. While marijuana has high THC concentrations, hemp has negligible amounts of it.
This allows us to tap hemp flower’s therapeutic and industrial potential without running the risk of getting high or addicted to it.
So, is hemp legal in Ecuador?
Ecuador’s harsh hemp laws were amended in 2013, when the government announced that people will not be prosecuted if caught with up to 10 grams of hemp.
Under the new law, hemp consumption was allowed and not considered criminal. However, cultivation, trafficking, and sale of large (and small) amounts of cannabis are still considered illegal in Ecuador.
In a further step to relax hemp laws, Ecuador allowed medical use of hemp in 2019. Under this law, you can consume hemp (with a THC concentration of less than 1%) for medical illnesses.
Finally, in 2020, the country introduced new laws, which legalized the cultivation of hemp flowers with a THC concentration of up to 1%. It’s interesting to note that many countries allow the cultivation of hemp with a THC concentration of only 0.3%.
The fact that Ecuador’s THC limit is pretty relaxed means it’s all set up to compete with other countries in hemp production.
Is it legal to buy hemp in Ecuador?
Yes, but only for medical uses.
However, it’s important to note that unlike other countries (e.g. Brazil), Ecuador doesn’t have a framework to register patients and provide them authorization to buy hemp without any legal repercussions.
Therefore, your best bet at getting hemp in Ecuador is to order it online. Make sure you order from a company that ships discreetly. But be aware that the possibility of your package getting confiscated at the border always exists.
Is it legal to sell hemp in Ecuador?
No. While the country does allow the consumption and cultivation of hemp flowers for medicinal purposes, you still can’t sell them.
Ecuador’s laws regarding drug dealing and trafficking are extremely stringent. If caught selling hemp, you can land in jail for up to 25 years.