Santiago: Authorities have started harvesting the largest legal marijuana field in Latin America in a rural area in southern Chile, the media reported on Tuesday. The initiative, which has been authorised by the Chilean government, will transform the buds of 6,000 marijuana plants growing near the city of Colbun into different phytopharmaceuticals for 4,000 patients free of charge. "It is an important day. We want it to be the first harvest of many more to come in Latin American countries," Ana Maria Gazmuri, president of the Daya Foundation, an organisation for the promotion and research of alternative therapies, which fosters the initiative, told Efe on Monday. The objective of the project is to generate three large clinical studies that will be developed by the Chilean National Cancer Institute and two hospitals. The research is funded by 20 municipalities of the country and is expected to benefit patients who suffer from cancer, refractory epilepsy and chronic pain. Last December, Chile passed a bill which allows the production and sale of drugs derived from hemp plants, legislation that countries such as Puerto Rico and Colombia have also adopted recently. At the end of 2015, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree which establishes that the Institute of Public Health has the authority to allow and control the use of cannabis for the manufacturing of medicinal products for human use. In Chile, marijuana is currently on the list of hard drugs, which means that their cultivation and possession is penalised with sentences ranging from five to ten years in prison. However, the Chilean parliament is working on a bill to legalise the consumption and personal self-cultivation and to list marijuana within the group of less severe drugs.