A Brazilian appellate court has agreed to decide on whether companies and farmers are allowed to grow cannabis in the country, potentially opening the door for legal cultivation for medical and industrial purposes after legislative efforts have been blocked for the past several years.
The ruling from the Supreme Tribunal for Justice of the Nation (STJ), the highest appellate court for non-constitutional matters in Brazil, was made public on March 14, establishing its jurisdiction to set the national precedent on importation and cultivation of cannabis.
Now, all outstanding cases regarding authorization for cannabis cultivation in the country will be frozen pending the final, expected ruling of the STJ, according to two lawyers following the case.
Brazil allows cannabis products to be sold and produced, but companies have to import the essential ingredients.
The courts final decision on marijuana, expected in the next year, may set a precedent for a subject that is been rejected by many in Brazils conservative-leaning congress, much as the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision cleared the way for gay marriage.
“Congress is a little afraid to decide on the cannabis issue, as it is a controversial one,” said Arthur Arsuffi, a lawyer representing biotech start-up DNA Solucoes em Biotecnologia in the case before the STJ. “So that has put off a decision and, given the number of lawsuits, the judiciary ends up having to settle the issue.”
Brazil has banned cultivation of Cannabis sativa L, the plant that produces cannabis and marijuana.
Researchers and cannabis companies argue Brazil’s tropical weather is ideal for making it the world’s leading supplier.
DNA has filed a civil suit seeking the right to import cannabis seeds and plants that contain higher levels of cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component in the plant.
Jose Bacellar, CEO of VerdeMed, a pharmaceutical company, said courts could now set the course for marijuana policies, just as they have done in Canada.
However, Bacellar said the STJs decision is fraught with risks in resolving a question this complicated, and that it is better for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to legalize cannabis farms.
Victor Miranda, an attorney, said the decision of the STJ setting a precedent in this case was in line with Brazilian jurisprudence, and gave no clear indication how it will eventually rule on the merits of the case.
“It is hard to speculate on the result,” Miranda said. “But a STJ ruling is a sign that the court is worried about this matter.”