Brazil rules over whether companies can grow cannabis, which could open the door to legal cultivation

A Brazilian appeals court agreed with the ruling on whether companies and farmers can do so cannabis plant in the country, which may open the door to legal cultivation for medical and industrial purposes after legislative efforts faltered in recent years.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ), Brazil’s highest court of appeal for unconstitutional matters, was announced on March 14 and established its jurisdiction in a nationwide precedent for seed imports and cannabis cultivation.

Now, all pending cases related to permission to grow cannabis in the country will be frozen until STJ makes a final and binding decision, according to two lawyers following the case.

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Brazil allows the sale and production of hemp products, but companies must import key ingredients.

The court’s final ruling on cannabis, expected within the next year, could make it groundbreaking on a topic rejected by many in Brazil’s conservative-leaning Congress, such as a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for same-sex marriage.

Brazil has banned the cultivation of Cannabis sativa L, the plant that makes hemp and marijuana. Researchers and cannabis companies have argued that Brazil’s tropical climate is ideally suited to making it a leading global resource.

Agronomist Sergio Rocha, 36, works inside a cannabis greenhouse in Brazil, on August 18, 2021.

Agronomist Sergio Rocha, 36, works inside a cannabis greenhouse in Brazil, on August 18, 2021. (Reuters/Washington Alves/file photo)

Advocates argue that the ban on growing domestically raises the final cost of drugs for consumers who have to rely on imports.

“Congress is a little afraid to make a decision on the cannabis issue, because it is a controversial issue,” said Arthur Arsofi, a lawyer representing DNA Solucoes em Biotecnologia in the case before STJ. “This led to a delay in making a decision, and given the number of lawsuits, the judiciary ends up settling the case,” he added.

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DNA filed a civil lawsuit claiming the right to import cannabis seeds and plants with higher levels of cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component in the plant. Hemp, which contains less than 0.3% THC and much more CBD, has been described by some advocates as useful in treating health conditions such as childhood epilepsy.

The courts may now lead the way in cannabis policy, as they have done in Canada, said José Basilar, CEO of drug company VerdeMed.

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However, Basilar said there are risks associated with STJ’s decision on such a complex issue, which he said would best be settled through a congressional bill to legalize cannabis farms.

STJ’s decision to set a precedent in this matter was in line with Brazilian case law and gave no clear indication of how it would ultimately rule on the merits of the case, said attorney Victor Miranda.

“It’s hard to predict the outcome,” Miranda said. “But STJ’s ruling is a sign that the court is concerned about this.”

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