(In this interview, RJ and Tomazine talk about cannabis law in Brazil, why Brazilians are so fond of TheWeedTube, and so much more! This video has been captioned in Portuguese for our Brazilian viewers to enjoy. Click HERE for the full video.)
Despite widespread calls for cannabis legalization and the implementation of medical and/or recreational cannabis use legislation in the U.S., cannabis remains a polarizing topic on the world stage. While countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, and Georgia have legalized cannabis for recreational adult use, the majority of world nations have not changed their stance on cannabis use since the beginning of the War on Drugs.
In Brazil, medical cannabis is permitted only for the terminally ill or patients who have exhausted other treatment options. Recreational cannabis, although permitted in small amounts for educational purposes or private use due to depenalization legislation established in 2006, remains largely illegal.
“The Brazilian law doesn’t allow you to grow, to smoke, or to carry weed with you on the streets. But the Brazilian law doesn’t specify amounts that differentiate users from dealers,” said Thiago Tomazine, a Brazilian content creator and cannabis advocate, during the course of our conversation. “So what really happens in Brazil is if you are poor, you are going to jail. If you’re rich, you’re a user.”
According to Tomazine, although cannabis “users” are not sent to jail, the lack of clarity on who in Brazil is considered a user and who is considered a dealer generates confusion.
“You can go to the police department a hundred times, if you’re a drug user, you don’t go to jail. But if you don’t have money, a powerful family, or something like that, you are a dealer.”
Tomazine added that in addition to a disbalance between those with money and connections and those without, police arrests in Brazil are disproportionate along racial lines.
“We don’t understand how it’s possible, because 70% of Brazilians are Black, yet police are very racist here,” said Tomazine. “So Black people have more chances to go to jail for one joint in your pocket.”
“Recently, a judge’s son, he got caught with 139 kilos of marijuana, and his trial said he was a user,” Tomazine noted. “And a few years ago, one guy who lives in the street was caught with 0.6 grams of marijuana, not 1 gram, and he got 5 to 15 years of jail.”
(Marcha da Maconha, Rio de Janeiro, 2014. Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil)
Leadership comes from the top, and for Brazil, it seems as if far-right conversative President Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t have any plans to address cannabis legalization in the country. Last December, Anvisa, a Brazilian pharmaceutical regulator, approved regulations for medical cannabis products, but blocked the permission of domestic medical cannabis farms in a vote.
While Anvisa’s medical cannabis regulations mark a substantial shift in Brazil, where there has been years of drug violence and related deaths, prohibiting cannabis farms shows that President Bolsonaro is not considering a fully integrated medical cannabis market in the country.
However, in a report by Hemp Industry Daily in September of this year, “Brazil has fast-tracked a draft law that would legalize the cultivation of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp, and the stakes are high.”
“This is the first time I see left- and right-wingers holding hands,” said Carolina Nocetti, a cannabis nutraceutical and technical consultant.
“If this crop is absolutely profitable for those who produce and absolutely legal and safe, I have no doubt that we will have rural producers wanting to produce both hemp and cannabis for medicines,” said Alceu Moreira, Head of the Parliamentary Agricultural Front (FPA), Brazil’s agribusiness lobby. “The parliamentary [agricultural] front will not approve any legislation that does not give absolute certainty that the production is specifically for medicinal products.”
Although the FPA has stated that the conversation on medical cannabis must continue before making a final decision, Nocetti noted that the lack of official word from President Bolsonaro might actually be a promising sign.
“If President Bolsonaro is against it, we would know it,” Nocetti said. “I think this says a lot, that he’s not saying anything.”