Ecuador is a country worth paying attention to for numerous reasons, and in the case of cannabis reform, the country has been quietly progressing from being one of the countries in South America with some of the harshest and toughest drug laws to decriminalizing recreational marijuana and legalizing medical cannabis.

Ecuador and Cannabis — What’s the Latest?

Ecuador, which is located on the western coast of South America with Columbia to its north and Peru to its south, and Brazil to its east, has a population of just over 18 million. To give a sense of the country’s size and population in comparison to its neighbors: Colombia is just shy of 52 million and is approximately 302% larger in land mass than Ecuador, Peru is 353% larger with a population of just over 33.5 million, and Brazil has a population of over 215 million and geographically is 2,903% larger than its neighbor to the west–Ecuador. All of this is to say that this relatively small South American country, which is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Nevada, is probably not the first country that comes to mind when thinking about cannabis reform in the western hemisphere let alone in the global stage.

Ecuador and Cannabis — the Road to Legalization

In the Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008, Article 364 decriminalized drug use, including cannabis, declaring it to be a “public health problem.” This replaced Law 108, from 1991, which saw even those caught with minimal amounts of marijuana in their possession being harshly sentenced to 12-16 years, cumulative, to a total of 25 years in prison. Eight years later, the country’s lawmakers originally proposed legislation that would formalize and legalize the medical cannabis industry, but internal government debates delayed its passing.

However, three years later, in September 2019, the National Assembly of Ecuador voted by an overwhelming majority of 83:23 to legalize medical marijuana up to 1.0% THC. In regards to the cultivation of hemp, in the summer of 2020, Ecuador introduced new laws that would legalize cultivating cannabis plants with a THC limit of 1.0%, as it was not included on their list of controlled substances under the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code (COIP). Up until that point hemp cultivation was illegal. By Ecuador allowing for the expansion of its hemp industry, it also makes increasing the production of medical marijuana products in-country possible. Then, on March 1, 2022, the manufacturing plant–Aya Natural and Medical Products of Ecuador–became the first to begin regulating, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) of medicinal marijuana.

Is Cannabis Legal in Ecuador?

Due to Ecuador decriminalizing drugs, including marijuana, in 2008, cannabis for personal consumption became and currently remains legal so long as the amount possessed by a person does not exceed 10 grams. However, it is important to know that with the exception of medical marijuana, producing and selling cannabis is still prohibited. Ecuador and cannabis have come a long way, which is great news for the rest of South America, as well.

Is Medical Cannabis Legal in Ecuador?

Yes, with the laws that Ecuador has been passing since 2019, the cultivation, distribution, and usage of medicinal cannabis are legal so long as the content does not exceed 1.0% THC. So that means that cannabis for “therapeutic, palliative or medicinal ends, or for the practice of alternative medicine” is legal to grow, sell, and use, which is a major step forward. Furthermore, the fact that so many senior government officials were present at Aya Natural and Medical Products’ inauguration ceremony in March 2022, signals that those at the very top support Ecuador’s medical cannabis industry not just domestically but on an international scale in keeping with their larger neighbors to the north and south who are already participating in and benefiting from being apart of this supply network.

Is Hemp Legal in Ecuador?

Hemp was legalized in the summer of 2020, and in October of that same year, Ecuador’s agriculture ministry (MAG) released Acuerdo Ministerial No. 109 (Ministerial Agreement No. 109), which included MAG’s hemp regulations that state “That, by means of memorandum No. MAG-SPA-2020-1175-M dated October 14, 2020, the Undersecretary of Agricultural Production sent the preliminary Ministerial Agreement to issue the Regulations for the import, sowing, cultivation, harvest, post-harvest, storage, transportation, processing, commercialization, and export of non-psychoactive cannabis or hemp and hemp for industrial use…”

Up until that point, hemp cultivation was illegal in Ecuador, even though the country’s climate is ideal for cultivating this plant. While there is some vagueness still around some of the regulations pertaining to industrial hemp, which is used for things such as manufacturing fiber, and non-psychoactive cannabis, aka “hemp,” which is used for consumer products, both are now legal in all the ways mentioned above in MAG’s hemp regulations.

Is CBD Legal in Ecuador?

Interestingly enough, despite all of the reforms that have been happening in the past few years around decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing medical marijuana, and hemp, CBD is not legal to distribute, purchase, or use. However, it is possible that this might change in the near future as the Ecuadorian Congress did start discussing legalizing CBD oil with less than 1% THC content for medical purposes back in 2019. It is speculated that if and when this law passes, it will only be possible to obtain CBD from pharmacies.


While the Ecuadorian government has mainly been focusing on the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis for medical and domestic and global industrial supply purposes, these steps are all seen as moving the country that much closer to the full legalization of cannabis. All in all, it is both amazing and encouraging to see how much the country has achieved in regards to cannabis reform by moving from draconian laws with extreme incarceration sentences to where it is now in a span of fewer than 15 years!

Written By Kim Thompson

Along with being an award-winning creative and literary writer, Kim works as a freelance copywriter, editor, and proofreader both domestically and internationally. 

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