As cannabis cultivation moves closer to legalization, Brazil opens space for a new lucrative market.

Latin America’s largest economy recently moved one step closer to allowing domestic medical cannabis and industrial hemp cultivation. On June 8, 2021, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies’ Special Commission approved PL 399/2015, which would legalize the domestic cultivation of cannabis for medicinal, veterinary, scientific, and industrial purposes.

This legislation will also have to pass in the Federal Senate and be signed by President Jair Bolsonaro to become law. Bolsonaro has previously indicated that he may veto this legislation, arguing that the proposed bill is based on low quality scientific information and on the commercial interests of certain groups that intend to establish the cannabis business in the country.

Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) already allows some medicines made from cannabis to be imported but the prices are cost-prohibitive for many of the patients who would benefit from their use. By allowing domestic cannabis cultivation by companies, associations, and non-governmental organizations, PL 399/2015 should lead to lower prices for Brazil’s cannabis patients if it becomes law. 

The possibility of cultivation opens space for a new lucrative market, which has increased interest from Brazilian agribusiness, a sector that can make the difference when it comes to negotiating with conservative Bolsonaro.

Also, the country is becoming an interesting place for foreign and national investors and companies alike, as explained in the Latin American and Caribbean Cannabis Report.

Southern Brazil pharmaceutical company, Prati-Donaduzzi, has been leading the pharmaceutical approach with one high CBD, THC free 30ml registered product – the only one so far besides foreign made Metavyl (Sativex). Yet, the challenge around price remains, with the average price of Prati’s CBD near BRL R$2,000 or USD $350 a bottle, more than the national minimum wage.

The company is participating in the discussion around incorporating cannabidiol in the Brazilian universal free healthcare system SUS, the largest of its kind in the world serving over 130 million people. 

Despite the prices, there’s an increase in cannabis-focused clinics in large urban centers such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre, in a country where over 87% of its population lives in cities. 

As more doctors become informed and confident to prescribe, and more people become informed on the benefits of cannabis-based treatments, the sector witnesses a steady increase in total patients and estimates around 14,500 prescriptions in 2021, a 135% increase when compared to 2020.The PL 399/2015 is a considerable progress not only to Brazil but to the cannabis history as a whole, as hemp cultivation and consumption has been associated with racist policies since its prohibition in Rio de Janeiro in 1830, the first known cannabis restriction law worldwide. In 1924, at the Second International Opium Conference, held in Geneva, Brazil influenced other countries to vote for the inclusion of this plant, together with opium and cocaine, on the list of internationally controlled drugs. Yes, blame it on Rio!

Author

Half-Paulistana, half-Americana. Cultural bridger and @a_cesso founder.