Professor Elisaldo Carlini from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP) has promoted medical marijuana since 1970. He is the head of all the four symposia about cannabis which recently happened in Brazil.
The IV Symposium on Medicinal Cannabis took place on May, 15, 2014, and focused on patients who need treatment via medicinal cannabis and its components. However, today, these patients struggle with access to such treatment, mainly due to bureaucracy.
On the first day, the Deputy Director of the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), Luiz Klassmann, presented the vision of the agency and affirmed that ANVISA was not discussing the possible cultivation of cannabis, but rather the medical use of its isolated compounds. He also said that cannabis is due to be included in the List C1 – i.e. the list of substances subject to special control and accessible under prescription, as is the case for morphine derivatives.
As a response to this proposal, Raquel Peyraube, advisor to the Ministry of Health of Uruguay, then declared: "I think that medical cannabis has to have its own regulation, we should not adapt an existing model to it, otherwise the consequences could be dreadful. And this type of regulation [proposed by ANVISA] only benefits the pharmaceutical industry".
The discussion of the first day of the symposium therefore highlighted the fact that many federal legislative barriers do need to be overrun.
The second day of the Symposium began with reports of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) – Wanda Tubertini, representative of the Brazilian Association of Multiple Sclerosis (ABEM) said: "I talked about this with some friends, and one of them told me that they would arrange for the plant to be grown, but what about the fear to use? And what about the side effects? The doctors do not talk to you about this! If I didn’t need to go [to the dealer], I am sure that I would be one of the first to use cannabis because I suffer from a lot of pain, which are often debilitating”.
The morning discussions clearly pointed out to one problem: the lack of knowledge by physicians regarding treatment by cannabis. Mark A. Ware, doctor at the Canadian McGill University and a member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation Of Cannabinoids (CCIC) stated: "There is stigma around cannabis and cannabinoids which is very difficult to change. Canada took 10-15 years to begin to understand this topic. Our organisation [ICC] promotes online events and conferences on the subject. My call to Brazil is that anyone who is involved in a possible regulation of cannabis allows for patients to be treated in order to assess whether the use of marijuana will lead to changes in the health and life of that patient”.
The Symposium ended with speeches delivered by two senior officials involved in the debate around medical marijuana – Congressman Paul Teixeira (PT-SP) and the Secretary of SENAD (National Secretariat for Drug Policies) Vitore Maximiano. Mr. Teixeira talked about the failure of the war on drugs and honored the director of CEBRID, Dr. Elisaldo Carlini. Taking the Uruguayan regulation of cannabis, the Congressman declared that there was a need to address this issue in Brazil, although he believed it was not appropriate to do so this year, in view of the electoral repercussions it could have. The Congressman will be the rapporteur of the two Bills on the regulation of cannabis in the country – a proposal by Jean Wyllys and another by Eurico Junior. Katiele, a woman whose story is well-known in Brazil because she imported CBD to treat her daughter, did not agree with the statement. She said that she did not have time to wait and asked the Congressman for his help to put pressure on the ANVISA so that they truly understand the desperation of affected families.
The event undoubtedly generated attitudes in favor of medical marijuana in the country. The two government authorities present on this last day of the symposium showed that there are people in Brazil who are interested, and in favor of changing the laws in order to offer medical marijuana.
However, and unfortunately, less than 10 days after the event ended, ANVISA postponed a vote for the reclassification of cannabis.