RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian pharmaceutical regulator Anvisa on Tuesday approved regulations for the roll-out of medicinal cannabis-based products but in a separate vote blocked a proposal to allow domestic medical marijuana plantations.
Anvisa’s approval of rules to regulate the nascent medical marijuana market represents a major shift in a country that has suffered years of deadly drug violence.
Nonetheless, the decision to prohibit domestic plantations shows that Brazil, led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, is not yet willing to join peers Colombia and Uruguay and develop its own vertically integrated medical marijuana sector.
A spokesman for Anvisa said that Brazilian firms interested in manufacturing cannabis-based products would need to import inputs from aboard.
It its statement announcing the regulatory approval, Anvisa said the new rules would be published in the country’s official gazette in the next few days and come into law 90 days after that. Anvisa also set out specific rules for the manufacture, import, sale, packaging, marketing and regulation of the new class of cannabis-based products.
Brazil’s decision to allow cannabis-based products is part of a slowly changing worldwide view toward illegal drugs, with growing investment in the medicinal benefits of marijuana and other narcotics.
Nonetheless, in regional terms, Brazil may be arriving late, with both Uruguay and Colombia having both legalized medical marijuana and actively working toward gaining a firm foothold in the booming multibillion-dollar global market.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana in December 2013 in a pioneering social experiment closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.
Colombia has also legalized medical marijuana, while in Mexico, the supreme court ordered the country’s health ministry to speed up its issuance of medical marijuana regulations, with recreational cannabis also being discussed by lawmakers.
Anvisa said that cannabis-based products will only be available for sale in registered pharmacies, and with a prescription.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Steve Orlofsky