How Does Recreational Cannabis Legalization Impact the Future of Medical Cannabis?
by Chane Leigh
Policymakers in Brazil have approved the sale of medical cannabis and residents can expect the full regulations regarding cannabis and its’ related products to be posted in the federal gazette. Residents can also expect new laws to come into effect, especially since it is now the largest medical cannabis market in Latin America, despite the fact that the proposal to allow domestic medical cannabis grows were rejected.
Despite this major win for the country, there are still strict regulations in place and there will probably be some additions to that as well. For example, it will remain illegal for non-hemp cannabis production within the country. Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria (ANVISA), the Brazilian version of the FDA government agency, is encouraging companies to import the raw material in a semi-finished state to avoid importing the plant itself or parts of the plant.
Residents of Brazil will need a doctor’s prescription to purchase any cannabis products for medicinal purposes, which can only be accessed from registered pharmacies. The government is also looking to regulate packaging, prescription requirements, manufacturing procedures, import guidelines and licensing requirements for distributors. Qualifying conditions that have been approved so far include epilepsy and pain symptoms associated with chronic conditions.
Since the country will be relying solely on imports of cannabis for medicinal purposes, it may come as a surprise that the Schoenmaker Humako Argi-Floriculture company has been permitted to grow hemp seeds provided that the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content remains below 0.3%. Despite not allowing domestic growth of cannabis, President Jair Bolsonaro continues to express his support for medicinal cannabis.
Furthermore, ANVISA has set up pharmaceutical parameters that will allow cannabis to be registered and commercialized in pharmacies. The parameters and regulations set out by ANVISA will come into effect 90 days after they are posted in the federal gazette and it set to be valid for 3 years.
Gustavo de Lima Palhares, CEO of Ease Labs explained that “Brazil has the potential to be among the three largest markets in the globe and the number of jobs created and amount of capital raised from taxes would be enormous.” He also stated that “the U.S. is already experiencing an opioid crisis and other countries are aware of this situation. Cannabis-derived medications come as a much more controlled and safe option to a market of some 80 million individuals when it comes to treating patients with pain in Brazil.”
The legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes is a big win. However, I do not believe it will impact the war on drugs in any positive manner. The legal cannabis for medicinal purposes will most likely be in the form of tinctures, oils, and capsules with THC quantities around 0.3%. The citizens of Brazil will be purchasing illegal cannabis from undergrown markets in search of higher THC quantities, mostly by recreational consumers. This will result in a continued requirement of an underground market, which then continues to provide grounds on which drug wars are being fought.
Even though we may not know how these changes will impact the drug wars, citizens of Brazil should still celebrate at the opportunity to access more effective, accessible, herbal and hopefully more affordable medication over the counter. These recent changes by ANVISA lead us to believe that the country will continue to maintain a more open-minded stance towards cannabis, just as demand for cannabis will continue to rise. However, the importing of the product may mean an increase in the cost of medicinal cannabis.
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