Brazilian Presidential Candidates Duck and Cover on Recreational Cannabis Reform


Brazil is moving forward on medical cannabis reform. At the beginning of the month, the National Health Surveillance Agency approved two new medical products. This will bring the number of approved medical cannabis products to 18. The majority of those available are still only CBD—ten out of the total are extracts made from cannabidiol. All of them must be bought in pharmacies and drug stores.

That is the state of cannabis reform du jour in Brazil, a place where even this victory has been hard fought. Indeed, the current (right wing) leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly quashed attempts at any forward steps, despite whole cities defying him.

Enter the 2022 Brazilian Presidential elections.

Tragically, there are a lot of fence-sitters. Then again, given the current political climate, even one step forward represents progress—even of the tortoise variety.

The Political Can to be Kicked Down the Road

CNN questioned all of the pre-candidates about their stance on reform. Here are some of the broader takeaways from the seven men in the ring.

Two candidates, plus the sitting president, Bolsonaro, did not answer. However, nobody needs him to. Bolsonaro’s track record on legalization is very clear. He even publicly mocked the last legislative effort to regulate the industry.

The other four all spoke in favor of medical use—but none support recreational reform.

Will Canada Remain the Only Recreational Reform Country in The American Hemisphere?

The U.S. has sadly had a great deal of influence in both Central and South America when it comes to the topic of drug policy. This is clearly showing up in Brazil right now. This includes any and all threats to access the American banking system (which were used to slow down dispensation in places like Uruguay).

Given the struggle that is going on at the federal level in the U.S. at this point, sticking to the medical side of the equation is a safe political bet.

Brazil is not the only country facing its Prohibition past and trying to figure out the next steps forward.

The positive news, of course, is that this is a serious question at the national level—and so is full reform.

The Great Medical vs. Recreational Divide

The scenario playing out in Brazil is by now a familiar one, especially to the global industry but the issues involved in this debate have not really hit the United States so far outside of California. Namely, how far should a federal government go when beginning to legalize a recreational market?

In the U.S., the issue of states’ rights has clouded the topic in a way unseen in Europe or other countries.

There are several models so far. The first is Holland, which has allowed an illicit market to survive based on the grey exceptions in the law. Spain is similar. In both countries right now, there are attempts to formalize both markets and figure out how the two should work together (or if there should be any overlap).

Then there is Canada, which allowed patient groups and collectives to be the starting point for a commercial medical and then recreational market. Funky financing and certification issues notwithstanding, this has been the model that has also forwarded, in its own strange way, reform elsewhere. Namely being the first country outside of the Netherlands to provide Germany with product for its medical market that started in 2017.

Finally, there is Germany which is now on track to pass some kind of recreational reform by the end of 2022. The transition here is likely to be bumpy too, but for different reasons. Namely, it is highly likely that the first movers in this market will be required to have EU-GMP certification.

This will mean that the first products in the recreational market will have to have a much higher bar to cross to hit the market, even if the transition to a less stringent standard is inevitable.

Regardless, there will be plenty of fireworks and drama if the cultivation and distribution bids were anything to go by—starting with challenging the inherent unfairness of the status quo. That said, it is hard to expect anything different since the Health Minister is the go-to guy on crafting the new recreational reform legislation per the actions of the Bundestag.

Legalization is not easy anywhere.

Just ask Joe Biden.


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