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Chile: Luis Quintanilla, National Dispensary President, Sentenced to Prison for "Self-cultivation"

On August 17, Luis Quintanilla, president and founder of the National Dispensary of Chile, was officially sentenced to preventive prison. Quintanilla thus joined the hundreds of people sentenced to prison for committing the "crime" of cultivating cannabis.

With regret, the news was shared on the official Instagram page of the National Dispensary of Chile, in a video reel showing Quintanilla's last moments before being taken to prison. There, he explained that he was imprisoned "not for having killed someone, nor for running over someone while intoxicated, much less for having committed any fraud." The activist assures that he was arrested for being the president of a non-profit association of medicinal users.

The same association is responsible for clarifying that they are not dedicated to selling any product, but to ensuring that its members can access the cannabis-based medicines they need to complete their treatments. That is the raison d'être of the National Dispensary, which is responsible for arranging the entire production chain, from cultivation to packaging and distribution among its members. Despite this altruistic work carried out by the association presided by Quintanilla, it was not an impediment for the justice system to accuse him of drug trafficking.

A Warning to Society Demanding Advances in Cannabis Legalization

Weeks ago there was a massive demonstration in the main avenues of Santiago, where various groups came out to demand their rights and progress in the legalization of cannabis, this march had among its leaders the congresswoman Ana Maria Gazmuri, who in an interview where she acknowledged her close relationship with cannabis for adult use, mentioned the case of Luis Quintanilla. The congresswoman showed her indignation by saying that: "Luis is a very important chemist, he has exhibited in Congress! They have raided the dispensary twice. They blame him for trafficking." In addition, Gazmuri declared her unconditional support for the founder of the association, for whom she promised not to lower her efforts and to call to generate sufficient social commotion to free him in the face of this injustice, although she already showed her resignation days before the sentence, admitting that it was very likely that Quintanilla would lose his freedom.

It was precisely this call from the social media of the National Dispensary, wherein the same reel already mentioned, Quintanilla, from his home with his family, invited the various collectives and social groups to take to the streets to support him and protest against the criminalization of his activity. The invitation also reached President Gabriel Boric, of whom he said that he had always demonstrated with his people in moments in which injustices were committed in the past, and he hoped that this would not be the exception.

After the arrest, the hashtag #nomaspresxsporcultivar (No more prisoners for growing) became a trend in Chile, promoted from the National Dispensary's own Instagram account, where despite the moment of adversity, there was a call to continue a fight that does not fall on a single person, but focuses on dismantling a system that far from fighting the real drug traffickers, is responsible for persecuting patients and growers who do not represent a danger to society. It is precisely the State that, under the current prohibition model, criminalizes and imprisons the citizens that, in theory, it should ensure access to health and protection.

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