Rio de Janeiro has decided to allow the cultivation of medical cannabis and research by patient associations. So far, only 78 judicial authorizations allow the cultivation of cannabis by an individual for exclusively medical purposes in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is the first Brazilian state to approve such a law.
Medical cannabis supplied by patient associations
The new law approved in the State of Rio de Janeiro regulates the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes by patients’ associations and in cases allowed under federal law. Patients’ associations can also organize conventions and partnerships with educational and research institutions to support the analysis of cannabis products to ensure the standardization and safety of the patient treatment.
The text also opens up the possibility of growing cannabis at home, provided that it is for therapeutic or research purposes, with a medical prescription.
In addition to the 78 individual authorizations, only one patient association has a judicial authorization for cannabis plantation in Brazil, Abrace Esperança, in the State of Paraíba. The permit, however, is a preliminary injunction and awaits a final judgment of the Federal Supreme Court (STF).
For most Brazilians who need cannabis derivatives to treat their illnesses, the most common form is importation, with authorization from Anvisa, the Brazilian medical authority. Two products are also available in pharmacies, Sativex, which costs around €480, and Cannabidiol (CBD) marketed by Prati-Donaduzzi at €375. These price levels make medical cannabis inaccessible to Brazilian citizens.
A tight vote
41 deputies from the State of Rio de Janeiro voted in favor of the text, 15 against and 6 abstained. The text had been approved last March and then vetoed by the state governor, Wilson Witzel. Nevertheless, parliamentarians have continued to support the project, especially after meeting children who have improved their quality of life with cannabis products.
Rio de Janeiro is the first state in Brazil that will have a law to support medical research on cannabis, and we will have funds for that, which also determines support for families. Especially for children and adolescents who need cannabidiol for which Anvisa (Brazilian health agency) has given its approval, but which has to be imported and is very expensive. The project is therefore not about drug policy, but about health, research, and social assistance. We are going to fight against obscurantism and prejudice, supporting these families who have to go to court to plant cannabis at home, said Carlos Minc, the proposal’s editor.
The law comes into force immediately.