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Brazil is on The Brink of Medical Cannabis Change

This is the truth about cannabis’s revolution. It has tended (so far) to be virulently opposed by the extreme right wing—and in every country. No matter what one thinks of John Boehner’s record on the drug war, not to mention his current position on the board of Acreage, the company slated to merge with Canopy Growth when federal reform of cannabis happens in the U.S.), he is a pragmatist, with a long history of taking cash from the pharma lobby in the U.S.

It is now known that Bill 399/15 will legalize the medical use of cannabis. The bill will go to vote in November, and it’s expected that it will pass. It then goes to the Senate where it is likely to be passed.

Since this summer, the issue has simmered at federal level with all sorts of political repercussions between those in favor and those against cannabis reform. The current president Jair Bolsonaro’s extreme anti-cannabis views make it a sensitive political issue. As a means of appeasing naysayers it’s also being considered to be a law that regulates home education, which is a main political plank for the president.

This is how you can understand the political sensitivity of all this. Earlier this year, Bolsonaro used a national security law dating from the period when the country was governed under military rule to detain and or investigate critics of his poor handling of the country’s COVID pandemic. In March, he detained people who called him “genocidal” and displaying a cartoon depicting him as a Nazi.

It’s common sense (and the Agricultural Lobby!) that makes a difference.

Here is the first compelling reason why sitting politicians in both houses are willing to defy the president, no matter how much Bolsonaro has made derogatory public statements including calling the bill “crap” and threatening to veto the same (which could in turn be overturned by Congress). People who might otherwise be persuaded not to change the status quo have been quickly convinced by cannabis’ powerful medicinal properties.

The country’s agricultural lobby is also of interest. They are looking for business development projects in Latin America (see Columbia if you don’t mind Mexico) as well as moving along with the global trend.

Cannabis with high levels of THC will need to be grown under strict control (such as two-meter fencing and biometric identification).

Brazil’s Sustainable Cannabis and Biodiversity

There are two possible ways that the industry can develop in this country, given the existing conditions. This could be the solution that this nation, which is home to threatened rainforests and a rapidly declining biodiversity, requires. In places such as South Africa where gold mining has literally created toxic soil full of heavy metals, the topic of best practices for cannabis cultivation is becoming increasingly popular.

But, there is also the threat of cannabis monoculture. Capital for those operations which meet all the regulations, and are exportable will have to be tied inextricably to foreign companies who will also demand it. For example, EU-GMP cannabis must only be grown in man-made greenhouses. That does not spell good news for an already beleaguered country—at least from the ecology perspective. The industry has chosen to use the cheapest, not the most sustainable, practices so far. This is tragic. You can see the past of larger Canadian public firms, which are also circling.

But, it is important to remember that the issue of an ever-warming planet and a decreasing biological diversity cannot be overlooked, even within this industry. If landrace cannabis is given priority here, perhaps a call for preserving the rapidly shrinking rainforests and the country’s biodiversity might take hold. In fact, there have been many attempts to cultivate cannabis that protects the biodiversity in their local area and attaches carbon credits. The market has so far not responded in a large way, however, this could change.

Already, countries across Africa are embracing ethically conscious and sensitive cannabis. This could also be a trend in Brazil, there is no reason why.

However, given Bolsonaro’s current predilections, if not immediate past history on such issues, including seizing land from native tribes two years ago, the immediate future, at least, is not bright.

However, this is not a good thing for anyone who is solely interested in cannabis reform. It may provide some comfort that only a very small number of people can force the right-wing to agree to reform.

In Brazil at the very least, it will matter if it is worth it.