Brazil could begin cultivating medicinal marijuana this year after proposed legislation gained unanimous approval from the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (Anvisa).

It greenlighted a 60-day public consultation on whether the country should begin to produce cannabis for medical purposes and conduct research into this field. A draft framework for a domestic cultivation industry will then go back to Anvisa for a final vote before it is signed into law.

William Dib, president at Anvisa, said he believes that the legislation will be approved before the end of the year. If a company has the necessary land and infrastructure it could begin cultivating marijuana immediately and have the first crop ready by the summer of 2020, he added.

Anvisa would be responsible for inspecting and supervising any companies permitted to grow marijuana in Brazil, while it could call upon the federal police force for assistance if necessary. They could only supply registered pharmacies and research institutions.

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and the ninth largest in the world, leaving it just ahead of Canada. It has a population of around 210 million and demand for medicinal marijuana is expected to be high in the future.

In 2017, it authorized its first license for a cannabis-based medicine by allowing sales of Sativex. Two million Brazilians suffer from epilepsy, which Sativex is used to treat. Some people are also allowed to cultivate small amounts of marijuana at home to treat certain conditions, but there is not a proper medicinal cannabis industry.

HempMed Brasil, a subsidiary of the US-based Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC: MJNA), is keen to begin producing cannabis in Brazil. “If the cultivation of the plant and the manufacture of medicines can be done in Brazil, there should be a reduction of costs and business expansion, which interests us a lot,” said vice president Caroline Heinz.

In April a group of leading Brazilian doctors went to California on a research trip to learn about the medicinal properties of cannabis. They visited the Medical Marijuana Inc. headquarters and the TERI Campus of Life, and they are now sharing their learnings with the wider Brazilian medical community.

Australian producer Creso Pharma (ASX: CHP) recently gained a license to import into Brazil and it plans to target Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Curitiba.

The black market for marijuana in Brazil is estimated to be worth $2.4 billion, making it the biggest addressable market in Latin America, according to New Frontier.

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