Brazil Is Finally Getting Medical Marijuana, But There's a Catch
The world’s fifth largest nation just gave the go-ahead to legally regulate medical cannabis, but there’s a catch: The country must import its weed, since pot farms remain banned.
Published on December 4, 2019

Brazil just became the newest nation to embrace medical marijuana with open arms. Mostly, anyway.

On Tuesday, Brazil’s pharmaceutical regulatory agency, Anvisa, approved the final rules for the country’s medical marijuana bill, which passed through the legislature in 2018. In a separate vote spearheaded by ultra-conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, marijuana farms and other forms of domestic marijuana cultivation and manufacturing remain banned. However, the new rules do permit hemp farming and cultivation within Brazil’s borders. So, at least there’s that. 

Banning domestic weed farming means Brazil must import its medical marijuana products from other countries, such as Canada, Israel, or neighboring Colombia. Medical marijuana products will only be sold through Brazilian pharmacies.

Brazil has permitted some medical cannabis products since 2017. GW Pharmaceuticals’ THC/CBD spray, Sativex, is sold in Brazil under the name Mevatyl. Most Brazilians, who make an average of $680 a month, cannot afford Mevatyl/Sativex, which costs about $670 for a one-month supply. Brazilians could also access limited hemp-derived CBD products, but they require a doctor’s permission, as well as an import license and approval from the Anvisa — a process that could easily rack up hundreds if not thousands of dollars’ worth of fees.

Details regarding what types of marijuana-derived products will be available has not yet been announced, including whether Brazil’s patients can access cannabis flower at pharmacies. Pharmaceutical products made from marijuana, especially those approved by government regulators in Europe or the US, will likely become available first. Anvisa said it would release the finalized rules, in full, sometime this week. The rules go into effect in 90 days.

Both Anvisa’s medical marijuana rules and Bolsonaro’s decision not to veto the medical marijuana bill should surprise anyone who’s been following Brazil’s politics. In 2017, shortly after winning the presidency with 55 percent of the popular vote, Bolsonaro called for flat-out executing anyone suspected of dealing drugs, without due process or a trial. 

Bosolanaro’s proposed draconian policy reflected one implemented by Flipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who allowed citizens in the Philippines to kill anyone suspected of drug trafficking, which included selling marijuana. To date, watchdog groups claim Duterte’s policy has led to at least 20,000 murders. US President Donald Trump has also publicly supported Duterte’s fascist policy. 

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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