Recent events in Brazil may be seen as further steps in a slowly changing position toward cannabis-based products in the region. Such change takes place with the background of growing investment in the medicinal benefits of marijuana and other narcotic substances.
While Brazil has recently provided rules allowing for the regulated use of medical marijuana products, there has also been significant pushback against proposals that would allow for domestic plantation for such products, including from within Brazil’s federal government.
Cannabis reclassified by UN Commission on Narcotics
On 02 December, the UN Commission on Narcotics removed marijuana and cannabis derived resin from the list of substances considered particularly susceptible to abuse and to produce harmful effects, thereby also recognizing the medicinal properties of the plant.
While the reclassification of cannabis as a less dangerous substance was approved by 27 countries, Brazil’s government notably voted against the change. The position is that the country had already authorized the import of substances derived from cannabis for the manufacture and sale of medicines and so further change is unnecessary.
Brazil – Bill PL 399/15
Those who wish to see progress on the regulation of cannabis planting in Brazil for medicinal purposes are closely watching a bill currently pending in the houses of congress (PL 399/15). A Special Commission has been established, which has already held public hearings over the past two years to debate the bill.
The possibility of cultivation opens space for a new lucrative market, which has increased interest from the Brazilian agri-business sector, including several members currently allied to the government.
In addition, numerous studies have been undertaken on this topic. The State of Paraná, for example, recently published a notice to attract partners for the production and commercialization of cannabis-based medicines through the Paraná Institute of Technology. A call to the public was made to prospect the market for potential partners interested in technology transfer for the development, manufacture and supply of cannabis-based products or drugs.
Also, the Sírio Libanês Hospital recently inaugurated a Nucleus for the study and out-patient treatment with medical cannabis. The Oswaldo Cruz Hospital maintains a similar center.
Moreover, the Brazilian Ministry of Health has already received proposals regarding the incorporation of cannabidiol in the public health system (SUS). Such a move would allow new products being registered by ANVISA (the Brazilian National Health Regulatory Agency) to be made available to the public.
However, opponents have come out against the bill. Despite the apparent advance of PL 399/15, the federal government has acted on several fronts seeking to clarify on the topic of marijuana and warning about the harmful strategies for easing the control of the substance. They argue that the proposed bill is based on low quality scientific information and on the commercial interests of certain groups that intend to establish the marijuana business in the country.
Opponents further argue that the already existing regulation by ANVISA for medical cannabis-based products dispenses with the need for legislation that allows “therapeutic” use of cannabis. Further, the drug is potentially life-threatening for those who choose to use the substance for medical purposes.
ANVISA itself has recently blocked several attempts to conduct research on cannabis cultivation, including a study headed by the Federal University of Viçosa in partnership with the start-up ADWA Cannabis, aiming at the genetic improvement of cannabis. The study was rejected by ANVISA, only to be re-initiated through litigation.
This above example demonstrates a scenario of judicialization in the research and development environment for cannabis in Brazil, at least until there is an established regulatory framework.
Most recently, on 20 April, it was indicated that the Special Commission will provide a favourable opinion on Bill 399/15, meaning that it can now progress to the next phase.
While there are movements both at national and international level that help to create a potential path for cannabis planting in Brazil, there has also been significant opposition to such moves, including from parts of the Brazilian government.
As a result, those interested in this area as a potential multi-million-dollar industry will need to be patient as the matter currently remains controversial. As it stands, those interested in manufacturing cannabis-based products are still required to import the related material from abroad.
We are continuing to monitor the developments on Cannabis-based products in Brazil and abroad. If you have any questions about this matter do not hesitate to contact us here.