EducationSeeking adventure in South America? Explore the rules for medical cannabis in your dream destination

Seeking adventure in South America? Explore the rules for medical cannabis in your dream destination

15 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

medical cannabis in South America


Our aim is to provide you with relevant information to help you to make better-informed decisions when travelling with your prescribed medical cannabis, but we cannot provide any guarantees, conditions, or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this article. It is a general guide only and not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice.

To expand on our continental cannabis guide, we’ve also released a series of articles that delve deeper into the legal frameworks that regulate medical cannabis in each continent. In this article, we discuss travelling with cannabis-based medicines to some of the most scenic South American countries. 

Stay with us as we explore the possibility of taking to the streets in colourful Colombia or beautiful Brazil as a medical cannabis patient. Or if you’re seeking a unique experience in Uruguay, or the energetic vibes of Ecuador and Argentina are more your scene, stay tuned to find out their official stances on travelling with medical cannabis.

As always, to avoid spending your dream vacation in hot water as opposed to hot weather, it is vitally important to also get professional guidance before departing with cannabis-based medicines from an official representative at the destination’s Embassy or consulate. 

Here we’ve gathered the general facts, so that you can begin to figure out where you can relax on your next trip abroad. 

Medical Cannabis Uruguay 

You may know that Uruguay is famous for its footballing ability, has an incredibly long national anthem and is littered with beautiful landscapes. But, what you may not have known is that in 2013 Uruguay made drug reform history, becoming the first country in the world to legalise cannabis for any purpose.

This means that both the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis in Uruguay is not a criminal offence. Citizens over the age of 18 are permitted to buy cannabis and cannabis based products from pharmacies in Uruguay, providing they have registered themselves as a cannabis consumer to the government.

Because Uruguay established this stance over a decade ago, it would be logical to assume that they may be the most accepting country in South America when it comes to allowing medical cannabis patients to visit with their own medication.But, to date, Uruguay’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has not published any information that specifically relates to medical cannabis or cannabis based medicines. 

The Bureau does, however, offer the following advice on their American webpage, stating:

“Carry prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription. 

There is no restriction on types of medication that can be imported for personal use.

Some medications may not be available in Uruguay, so bring a sufficient supply for your stay.”

The Welcome to Uruguay website also contains health related information for travellers on their website. Here they recommend having appropriate travel insurance, being up-to-date on the relevant vaccines and contacting the embassy to check the legality of your medicine. 

Even though this charismatic country has very liberal laws and travelling there with medication of any kind appears relatively straight forward, we’d also strongly advise contacting the relevant officials for extra security and peace of mind. 

Before travelling to Uruguay with medical cannabis, speak to Uruguay’s consulate or Embassy to ensure there are no issues with your medication at the border. It is also crucial to check the appropriate airline policies and potentially contact them directly for clarification as to whether cannabis-based medicines are permitted on board. 

Although citizens can legally purchase cannabis for any use in Uruguay, it is not clear whether this law is also extended to tourists or not. And so, purchasing cannabis-based medicines whilst on holiday may not be an option, even with registered patient status.

So, instead of choosing between your health and a holiday – we’d advise speaking to the relevant authorities well in advance of your planned departure date to explore the options available to you. 

Medical Cannabis Colombia

Colombia is full of breathtaking views, modern cities and diverse culture and so, it features on many bucket lists around the world. However, what is less well known is the country decriminalised the personal use of cannabis in small amounts for its residents almost twenty years ago in 1994. 

In this legislation it was unclear as to what classified as a ‘small amount’ and so in 2012, the Colombian government expanded on this legislation.  A 20 gram cap was placed on the ‘personal use’ qualification, which was broadened to include up to 20 plants in 2015. 

The same year, legislation to regulate the medicinal use of cannabis was signed by the President, Juan Manuel Santos, and guidelines for medical cannabis dispensaries were established. By 2016 medical cannabis had been fully legalised in Colombia. 

However, although cannabis is decriminalised, and every resident can grow cannabis plants for their own consumption, the actual sale of cannabis is restricted to the pharmaceutical and textile industries. Trying to buy or sell cannabis in Colombia outside of these frameworks comes with high legal penalties, and jail sentences are regularly issued for these offences. 

In Colombia, medical cannabis patients can purchase cannabis based pharmaceutical products from registered dispensaries, but they do not have legal access to purchasing raw cannabis, or cannabis flowers. If Colombian patients prefer flower over the prescribable medications, typically they are advised to grow their own, which they can do so under the decriminalisation law. However, this only applies to citizens in Colombia, not tourists. 

International Citizens Insurance (ICI) offer some relevant advice regarding health and travel insurance with regard to visiting Colombia that should be considered when planning your holiday. Their website says: 

“Some medications that are routine for you may be prohibited in other countries. Before your trip, call the Colombian embassy in your country to find out if your medication is legal in Colombia. 

Cannabis (marijuana) has been decriminalised in small quantities, but it is still illegal in Colombia. This means you should not bring recreational or medical cannabis or THC products into the country – even if you have a prescription.”

The ICI seem confident that cannabis-based medicines would not be permitted entry into Colombia, but if it is a dream destination for you, and taking your medication is non-negotiable, we’d still advise contacting the embassy to double-check. 

It is imperative that you do not attempt to take medical cannabis out of the country without approval from the destinations' embassy, consulate, or high commission. Doing so could be seen as an attempt to smuggle or traffic drugs across the border, an offence which comes with jail sentences of up to 25 years in Colombia, and so, it is extremely important to do your research and speak to the relevant officials before travelling. 

Medical Cannabis Ecuador

Colombia’s neighbour Ecuador, however, is much more restrictive in their medical cannabis legislation. This Spanish-speaking country offers an incredibly diverse range of landscapes, such as the Galápagos Islands and part of the Amazonian jungle – however those hoping to bring cannabis-based medicines across the border are likely to be disappointed.

Although the National Assembly of Ecuador legalised the medicinal use of cannabis-based products in 2018, there are a number of other laws that are significant to consider. The Organic Law Reforming the Comprehensive Criminal Code, and the Comprehensive Prevention of the Socioeconomic Phenomenon of Drugs was subsequently published in 2019 and 2020 respectively. 

Ecuador later passed Regulation and Control of the Use of Listed Substances subject to Control Acts, which High Times describe as an ‘organised’ approach to establishing themselves within the global cannabis market. However, patients can still only access cannabis-based medications that contain no more than 1% Tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. 

These products are tightly guarded by prescribing guidelines, and the Ministry of Agriculture also enforce strict regulations on the cultivation of cannabis that is used in the manufacturing of these products. However, according to the BBC, a small stash of cannabis under 10 grams is legally permitted in Ecuador for personal use.

We’d recommend speaking directly with the embassy or consulate representing Ecuador before even considering attempting to take cannabis based medications to Ecuador on holiday. We always advise this anyway, but stress the importance in this instance because of the strict THC limits Ecuador imposes on their own citizens, and the high penalties that are enforced in drug smuggling and trafficking cases in the country. 

Medical Cannabis Brazil 

Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world and is an incredible country to visit. Home to immensely spectacular carnivals filled with music, food and dancing, as well as unbelievable sightseeing opportunities such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and the Amazon Rainforest, it is no surprise that Brazil is a dream destination for many. 

Like many others, Brazil took a step-by-step approach in changing their stance on cannabis policies. In 2006 their take on decriminalisation took off, seeing that those caught with personal amounts of cannabis were not subjected to criminal punishment and instead receive mandatory educational programs or community service. However, it is believed this only applies to citizens – not to tourists. 

In 2015, cannabis derived products were permitted for medical use by the government, so long as they meet the requirements established by the nations' health regulatory agency ANVISA. This includes requiring pharmaceuticals be produced to Good Manufacturing Practices regulation and demonstrate their safety and efficacy for their intended use. 

However, in Brazil, typically these products are only prescribed to patients who have shown to be treatment resistant, or those who have received terminal or irreversible diagnoses as a form of palliative care.

The Brazilian Government website does contain guidance for prospective travellers, outlining their stance on bringing different types of medication into the country. Tourists are advised to bring their medication in its original packaging, with an up-to-date copy of the prescription in their hand luggage. 

According to this website, medications for personal use are exempt from health inspections at the port of entry or at customs clearance, but it also says that drugs and narcotics are not permitted in the country. However, according to the international law firm CMS this may not be an issue, as they state:

“With regard to importation, only one drug has been authorised for commercial importation. However, there is also a list of cannabis based medicinal products that can be imported by patients directly if they have been authorised to do so.” 

However, as always it is important that the appropriate permissions are granted before travelling to Brazil with medical cannabis, and so the best place to start is by having a conversation with the embassy regarding your medicine's import status. 

Medical Cannabis Argentina 

Argentina stands as the second-largest country in South America, out-placed only by Brazil, and has an abundance of beauty, adventures, and incredible opportunities for tourists to explore and enjoy. Its vibrancy and tenacity have made Argentina an intriguing destination for many, but where does this country stand in terms of cannabis?

The laws and opinions surrounding cannabis have been shifting in Argentina for a number of years now. After repeated proposals to the government from politicians, the effort to decriminalised cannabis proved successful in 2009, and consuming small amounts of cannabis no longer carries legal penalties in Argentina, so long as it is done in a private location.

The move to legalise medical cannabis also came gradually, with Chebut and Santa Fe starting this progression trend as the first provinces to legalise the use of medical cannabis in Argentina back in 2016. The following year the therapeutic use of CBD was approved at a national level by the Senate, and in 2020 the President took the final steps, legalising medical cannabis in Argentina. 

It should be stressed that although medical cannabis is legalised, and the possession and consumption of small amounts of cannabis has been decriminalised, in Argentina cannabis is still classed as an illegal substance and so, extreme caution is advised if you are planning on visiting Argentina whilst carrying cannabis-based products.

Frommer’s, a highly reputable annually published travel guidebook, have released the following information for those wanting to visit Argentina, specifically Beneus Aires, that we think may be of interest. It reads:

“Most drugs that require a prescription in North America or Western Europe do not require one in Argentina. Thus, if you lose or run out of medication, you may not need to see a doctor and get a new prescription. 

Pack prescription medications in your carry on luggage and pack them in their original containers with pharmacy labels – otherwise they might not make it through airport security. Also bring copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out, know the generic or chemical name of prescription medications in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.” 

However, there is no mention of whether this is still the case for controlled medicines like cannabis-based products and so, like with any other destination, we’d strongly advise seeking out individual advice from the Argentinian embassy or consulate. 

The Welcome to Argentina website also advises doing this to verify the lawfulness of medications when they are being transported, and it is important to remember to do the same for any country you may be transferring in, or stopping over in, along your journey. 

This website also recommends patients also travel with a letter from their doctor that explains their diagnosis and the types of medications they are taking. They advise patients to renew their prescriptions, so they have the most up-to-date information, and also bring a summary of their medical history on holiday when travelling to avoid any extra issues. 


Although every country mentioned in this article legally permits the use of cannabis based, or cannabis derived medicines for their residents, it is crucial to remember that these guidelines were designed with their citizens in mind, and so often extra restrictions apply to tourists. 

It is imperative to always contact the Embassy or consulate of the country you are planning on visiting whilst carrying medical cannabis, and we’d advise you do so as early as possible to give the relevant authorities plenty of notice. 

These foreign officials can give specific and individual advice to patients who may need to take their medication on holiday with them. It is also equally important to gain approval from the relevant airline or transportation provider to ensure you are not prosecuted, and your medication is not confiscated, during transit. 

There are other rules and recommendations available that relate to the actual transportation of cannabis-based medicines in our professional guidance section once your destination has been decided. Here we cover other significant aspects you should be aware of during your journey, such as carrying a copy of the prescription, and an accompanying clinicians letter and ensuring the original packaging is intact and presented at airport security checkpoints. 

Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and should not be solely relied upon. It is crucial to thoroughly review the current travel advice for each country before making any travel arrangements or embarking on a journey with medical cannabis. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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