Brazil policymakers have approved the sale of medical cannabis in the country, making it the largest medical marijuana market in Latin America. The country’s FDA-like governmental agency Anvisa said on Tuesday that its full regulations regarding cannabis-based products will be published shortly in Brazil’s federal gazette, and that the new laws will come into effect three months following that announcement.
The policy shift is momentous for a country that previously banned all use of cannabis, and is currently governed by the far-right administration of Jair Bolsonaro. But Brazil’s regulations have a key omission that many will see as indicative of the government; production of non-hemp cannabis will remain illegal in the country, requiring the involvement of foreign corporations in the new industry.
Forbes reports that an Anvisa spokesperson encouraged Brazilian companies to “import the semi-finished raw material, not the cannabis plant or parts thereof.”
That decision — which warranted its own vote apart from the general body of cannabis regulations — could set back the Brazilian marijuana industry. In Colombia, medical marijuana regulations have allowed for a burgeoning wave of cannabis companies while Brazil’s neighbor Uruguay became the first country in the world to allow for recreational cannabis usage and production in 2013.
The cultivation of hemp, however, will be allowed inside the country’s borders. Under Brazil’s regulations, individuals will need a doctor’s prescription to purchase cannabis products, which will only be available in registered pharmacies.
Other procedures that will be regulated by the new set of laws will be packaging, prescription requirements, manufacturing procedures, import guidelines, and licensing requirements for distributors. The regulations will be valid for the next three years.
Drug-Related Violence Persists
For years, activists and judicial officials have called for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs in Brazil, which is one of the world’s biggest cocaine markets. The country has suffered from the same cartel-fueled violence and concurrent police brutality as the rest of South and Central America, resulting in seven civilian fatalities a day at the hands of law enforcement at the start of the year in Rio de Janeiro.
After a mid-aughts expansion of sentencing discretion, Brazil now has the third highest prison population in the world, behind the United States and China. Black people make up slightly more than half of the country’s population and are more likely to be impacted by Drug War policing than whites.
Thousands of activists march each year in Rio’s Global Marijuana March demanding legalization to counteract the justice system’s blatant racial bias. “In countries where there is huge social inequality, like Brazil, prohibition is a factor of the production of violence,” Rio councilperson Renato Cinco once said.
International corporations announced their pleasure at the opportunities that have been established by the new Brazilian market. “We congratulate legislators and the health authority in Brazil for their leadership in establishing a legalized environment for medical cannabis in the country,” said Khiron Life Sciences Corp.’s vice president of business development Andres Galofre in a press statement. “With a population of over 200 million this will directly benefit the health and wellbeing of a significant number of patients in Brazil and affirms our position as a LatAm leader in a rapidly globalizing cannabis market.”