Updated on December 21, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Brazil, like many other countries, features a unique set of medical marijuana laws. Because of their different impacts upon patients and caregivers, as well as available treatments, it’s essential to understand how they affect you or a loved one before meeting with your physician to discuss cannabis as a treatment.
For many patients, medical marijuana laws in Brazil are restrictive, as well as permissive. While some countries designate monthly limits for medical cannabis, Brazil allows physicians to prescribe a dosage schedule that meets your needs.
At the same time, Brazil restricts how you consume medical marijuana. The government has only approved cannabis-based medicines — with no more than 30 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) per millimeter — for use.
In fact, the only cannabis-based medicine approved is Sativex, also known as Mevatyl. If you want to access one of the other 11 medications supported by Brazil, you’re required to apply with the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA).
Many lawmakers throughout Brazil intend to establish a medical cannabis program that’s seamless for patients, physicians and pharmacists. That’s one reason pharmacies dispense the medicine and require only a prescription, instead of a medical marijuana card — except for ANVISA patients.
As an ANVISA patient, which means you’re importing a cannabis-based medicine other than Sativex, you’re required to apply for exceptional authorization. As a part of your application, you’ll need a prescription and report from your doctor. If approved, you’ll visit an ANVISA station at a nearby airport to pick-up your medicine.
Recreational marijuana remains illegal in Brazil — though 2006 saw the decriminalization of cannabis for personal use. Now, the government imposes a warning — plus requires participation in community service and educational classes — if you cultivate or possess marijuana for personal use.
Unlike other countries, Brazil does not define what qualifies for personal or commercial use.
Medical marijuana also carries penalties in Brazil. Because the country only permits cannabis-based medicines, with specific standards for THC and CBD concentrations, treating your condition with traditional forms of cannabis can result in the same penalties for recreational marijuana.
Like other countries, Brazil’s medical marijuana program features some limitations. By authorizing only select cannabis-based medicines, which are delivered in a tincture format, the nation prevents patients from accessing different administration methods for marijuana.
This restriction is significant, as the way you medicate relates to your condition. If you’re coping with chronic pain, for instance, you may choose edibles, as they’re slow-acting and long-lasting, or a strain of cannabis targeted towards pain relief.
By only permitting Sativex, as well as requiring ANVISA patients to undergo a thorough vetting process for obtaining other cannabis-based medicines, Brazil limits how you treat your condition, and in turn the success of that treatment.
While limiting at times, Brazil’s medical marijuana program does protect patients and doctors. By incorporating cannabis-based medicines into the country’s health system, for example, Brazil eliminates the need for medical marijuana cards, thus preventing misunderstandings between patients and law enforcement.
Brazil also allows physicians to prescribe, rather than recommend, cannabis-based medicines. As a result, doctors can provide dosing instructions, as well as advice and answers to questions you may have about beginning Sativex or another cannabis-based medicine.
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