Argentina: “It’s Our Duty to Show Different Positions on Important Issues”

July 9, 2017

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Balance is a pillar of Global Press. From the moment reporters propose a story, we have to think about who could be an “opposing voice” for each story.

The majority of the time, it is relatively simple to find a person who disagrees with what another interviewee says. But on other occasions it’s a job that requires more subtlety.

This article was one of the difficult ones.

When I first wrote about medicinal cannabis, the law that permits its use still hadn’t been approved. For that reason, including testimony from people who were against the law was an appropriate counterpoint to those who sought legalization. (Read that story here.) For this article, the law had already been approved by an absolute majority and it seemed to me that returning to speak with groups that were against it didn’t make much sense.

The reporting deadline was approaching and it became extremely difficult for me to write the article without a dissenting voice. At times, I felt like I was writing a publicity pamphlet. There are many articles like that in the local press, but once you get used to the Global Press Journal style, you simply can’t write something unbalanced without feeling like you are omitting the other side of the story.

That’s part of the reason why I interviewed a representative who voted in favor of the law. I sought her opinion on complaints from pro-medicinal cannabis organizations that want self-cultivation of marijuana to be legalized in order to produce cannabis oils and extracts for health purposes. The newly approved law doesn’t allow people to grow marijuana privately.

The lawmaker I interviewed supports medicinal cannabis use, but doesn’t support self-cultivation, even when it’s grown for medicinal purposes. The reason: It’s difficult both to ensure that privately grown cannabis will only be used for medicinal purposes and that the cannabis quality will promote good health.

Valeria Salech (center), president and founder of Mamá Cultiva Argentina, a group that advocates for marijuana self-cultivation for medicinal use, participates in a march in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city. Medicinal marijuana is allowed in Argentina, but it’s not legal to grow the plant for one’s own private use.

For the mothers in the pro-cannabis organizations, the best way to control the growth of marijuana plants and make high-quality extracts is to do the work themselves. To the lawmaker, a privately managed process could be dangerous for patients.

That was my alternative voice – my balance. Finishing the story was easy.

When my editor reviewed the story, she asked for another interview from a politician who was against the law. More balance was needed, she told me. I told her that the law had been unanimously approved. We analyzed alternatives and agreed that, given the circumstances, the lawmaker who is opposed to growing marijuana privately offered enough balance.

As journalists, it’s our duty to show different positions on important issues. Even when those differences aren’t radical, they enrich the story.

Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this blog from Spanish.