By Steve Elliott
Chile has made a move towards decriminalizing marijuana after the lower house of congress approved -- by a wide 68-39 margin -- a bill that would change the cannabis laws in this South American country.
Observers believe Chile, while not quite ready to follow neighboring Uruguay's lead on full legalization, may be ready to decriminalize personal use and cultivation of cannabis, reports Reuters.
The lower house of congress on Tuesday, to loud cheers from the public galley, voted to push forward with marijuana law reform. The bill would allow possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis, and the growing of up to six plants.
Current marijuana penalties in Chile can get up you to 15 years in prison, reports the BBC.
A health committee will now study the bill before the lower house again votes on each of its specific elements. It will then go to the Senate.
The vote was important, according to lawmaker Karol Cariola, part of President Michelle Bachelet's lefist coalition. "It is a historic day for medicinal users who wish to stop being persecuted and be able to access a medicine that they can grow in their gardens," she said.