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What Do Brazil’s New Hemp Law Mean for the Country’s Cannabis Industry?

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Dec 13, 2019   
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In a historic decision last week, a judge from the Federal District Brasilia officially authorized the first company to import and grow industrial hemp commercially in the country.

The decision takes effect from December 18, and will allow Schoenmaker Humako Agri-Floriculture, part of the Terra Viva group, to legally import and grow industrial hemp seed with a THC concentration below 0.3 percent in Brazil.

Just hours before the judge’s decision, Brazil’s pharmaceutical regulator Anvisa also independently approved a proposal to allow the sale of cannabis-derived medical products and rejected a proposal to allow domestic medical cannabis cultivation.

Could the court decision be reversed?

The ruling handed down by Judge Renato Coelho Borelli stated that “industrial hemp is not confused with marijuana, has no ability to generate psychotropic effects, is intended exclusively for medicinal and industrial use, and is commonly cultivated for fiber production in several countries.”

As a result, the judge reasoned that Schoenmaker Humako Agri-Floriculture should be allowed to sell the seeds, leaves, and fibers of the hemp plant “exclusively for industrial purposes,” under the supervisions the Ministry of Agriculture, the Brazilian Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (National Sanitary Surveillance Agency) and Anvisa.

“I also determine that the Ministry of Agriculture provides for the inclusion of industrial hemp or hemp on the National Cultivar Register list,” Borelli concluded.

Terra Viva’s request sought the court’s permission to import hemp seed and cultivate hemp plants, in order to sell hemp fiber, leaf, and seed material in their raw forms.

Arthur Ferrari Arsuffi, one of the lawyers defending the company, told Marijuana Business Daily that his interpretation of Borelli’s ruling would now allow the company to use this hemp to “supply the pharmaceutical industry.”

Rodrigo Mesquita, a Brazilian lawyer who specializes in supreme court cases, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if federal powers decided to appeal the decision from the Federal District Brasilia. The court decision is still preliminary and can be appealed.

“[The court’s decision] may lead to a strong reaction from the government, which could appeal the ruling claiming that it may cause ‘serious damage to public safety, public health and the economy,’” Mesquita told Marijuana Business Daily.

“This was an argument already used by Anvisa’s director Antonio Barra Torres to deny the regulation of cultivation, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the executive power using it again.”

However, if the ruling is allowed to stand, there is the potential for the decision to spur on other cannabis companies to lodge their own appeals through the justice system in order to secure permission to cultivate hemp domestically.

A bumper day for cannabis reform activity

On the same day as the historic hemp cultivation ruling from the Federal District Brasilia, the country’s pharmaceuticals regulator Anvisa vetoed a proposal on domestic medical cannabis cultivation.

Under Brazil’s Law 11,343 of 2006, the cultivation of plants “from which drugs may be extracted or produced” is prohibited. However, despite this appearing to rule out cannabis cultivation, the same law also states that, “the federal government may authorize the planting, cultivation and harvesting of [these plants] solely for medicinal or scientific purposes.” In other words, there is existing legislation which would allow the Brazilian government to easily authorize medicinal cannabis cultivation if it so chooses.

The problem for pro-cannabis advocates is that the Brazilian government doesn’t wish to do so, as demonstrated by Anvisa’s rejection of the issue.

But, with Brazilian law already affording a possible pathway towards cultivation, and hemp cultivation already being given the green light, it’s thought that companies may be lining up to try and get authorization through the justice system – just as Terra Viva has now done with hemp cultivation.

According to Mesquita, “companies have good chances [of obtaining cultivation permits] in the judiciary system.”

“…[U]nregulated domestic cultivation can only be explained due to the government’s lack of interest in creating the rules for something that is legal according to Brazilian law and international treaties, evidencing an omission from the Brazilian state,” he said.

Mesquita also cited an ongoing lawsuit brought by a political party that is seeking the declaration of omission by the Brazilian state to implement the law that would allow medical cannabis cultivation. He also surmised that Anvisa’s unwillingness to regulate cannabis cultivation could prompt the supreme court to accelerate the judicial process for this case, perhaps even setting a date by which parliament would need to legislate and regulate cultivation, in a similar fashion to what Mexico’s supreme court did for their parliament in 2018.

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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