How far is the legalization of Cannabis in Brazil going?

To start on the right foot, we decided to discuss the current situation in Brazil in regards to the cannabis plant. We know that the steps are slow and short, but what is the current perspective of legislation here?

It is a sad that Brazil is so late in matters that various corners of the world are already part of many population’s daily life. And they even profit millions to their respective governments in taxes. But it is necessary to be attentive to each change.


There are those who say that there is a silent legalization of medical cannabis in Brazil. Its recreational use, on the other hand, seems so far from being regulated that we rarely talk about it openly still. Lets look deeper at the the latest movements of ANVISA – National Health Surveillance Agency – and its relation to the herb.
2020 was an important year for the history of Cannabis in Brazil, but the road ahead is still long. Planting cannabis for medical and scientific use has been approved since 2006, with prior license, through Law 11.343, the Drug Law. The first authorization was granted by the Brazilian courts in the second instance at the STF – Supreme Federal Court. Shortly thereafter, some patients were successful in their cases due to the jurisprudence of the former laws. But, the 14-year gap was believed to help improve the context and make access a little easier, either through importation or authorized cultivation.

Imported Cannabidiol (CBD)

Until 2015, the year in which Cannabidiol (CBD) was finally removed from the list of prohibited substances, Anvisa only granted exceptional authorizations to serve fathers and mothers of children with epilepsy who filed requests to import drugs derived from Cannabis. Little by little, patients started to treat other diverse pathologies, such as autism, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety and chronic migraine with CBD.

In December 2019, Anvisa regulated the research, manufacture, and sale of Cannabidiol in Brazil through the pharmaceutical industry using prescriptions. The measure became effective on March 10, 2020, but the plant itself still needed to be imported. In other words, despite an important step, the decision does not include cultivation on Brazilian soil. After all, the plant has several additional properties that could also be used in the cosmetics, textile, and food industries. Unfortunately, this causes part of its potential to be continually wasted.

Fortunately, importing has become much easier now. Until recently, the process took about 90 days. In addition to having a prescription, the patient had to submit to Anvisa a consent form and a report citing other medicines they had already taken (including references and scientific articles). This process shows how bureaucracy can be hell. Now, Anvisa has authorized the import in up to ten days. And about 7 thousand Brazilians have already been approved.

Another notable step is that Brazil benefits from large pharmaceutical companies and companies that practice exorbitant prices for importing products, which can vary from one hundred to more than one thousand reais per month. The main drug with permission for sale in pharmacies, with isolated CBD, costs more than 2 thousand reais per month. Access remains complicated and elitist.

Bill 399/2015 and CBD available at SUS

We now have to wait for the approval of Bill 399/2015, which will regulate the cultivation, processing, research, production, and marketing of Cannabis-based products for medicinal and industrial purposes in the national territory. One of the intentions of the law is for patients who have a medical prescription to have easier and cheaper access to the medication, including through SUS – Unified Health System.
Rodrigo Maia, former president of the Chamber of Deputies, was in favor of the agenda and had pledged to put it to a vote on an urgent basis in the second half of 2020, which did not happen. Now, Arthur Lira occupies the seat in Congress and is an ally of Jair Bolsonaro, who does not intend to facilitate the progress of the issue.

In the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (who is now at the forefront), is a little more favorable, although he also has support from Jair who is firm on his positions in favor of science and medical cannabis. It doesn’t hurt to cheer and have hope…

Preventive Habeas Corpus for cultivation of Cannabis Sativa

In 2016, another important step was taken towards legalization. That year, Brazilian courts granted three preventive Habeas Corpus for the cultivation of medicinal Cannabis. It was for patients who filed for court orders advance and not be accused of breaking the law when cultivating. In 2020, despite the pause in the courts due to the pandemic, sixty-seven habeas corpus was granted until August, according to BBC Brazil. In addition to these patients, only two associations, Abrace and Apepi have preventive permission for planting.

What is still illegal?

THC and all other cannabinoids besides CBD remain on the list of substances banned by Anvisa. Cultivation and commercialization also remain illegal and drug trafficking remains the crime that leads most people to incarceration, the vast majority of whom are young and black. This is because despite the law considering alternative penalties for ‘users’, such as socio-educational measures and the provision of services to communities, the exact definition of the quantity considered for personal use or trafficking is still lacking. This cloudiness paves the way for structural racism to be perpetuated in Brazil and arrests – often made preventively – are filled with citizens imprisoned for tiny amounts of marijuana anywhere from five, ten, twenty grams. Regulation and legalization is of no use if justice is still flawed and partial.

Did you like our content? This is only the beginning! Here at Reality Check we will dive into legislative issues and news on the cannabis market in Brazil and worldwide. At Nowdays People you will find interviews with some inspiring voices of our generation. At Basics, content about other alternative methods of wellness and a real encyclopedia about our beloved plant at Cannabis A to Z. If you have a breeze there, take a walk on the platform, feel free and if you want, tell us people what you found through @nnowdays.

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