Brazil’s National Agency for Health Surveillance (Anvisa) has approved the roll-out of medical cannabis sales across the country.

The new regulations will be published in the Federal Official Gazette in the next few days and then they will be enshrined into law 90 days later. It is a landmark decision for a country that has suffered years of drug-related violence, but Anvisa decided to uphold the prohibition domestic cannabis cultivation in a separate vote.

It means that Brazil will be totally reliant on imports for its legal medical marijuana industry. Latin American nations like Uruguay and Colombia are pursuing a vertically integrated model that allows cultivation, sales and exports, but Brazil has decided against going down that route for now.

Separately, a Brazilian judge permitted a specific company to commence industrial hemp production. Schoenmaker Humako Agri-Floriculture can now grow hemp seeds, provided the THC content remains below 0.3%.

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture is now obliged to include hemp on the National Cultivar Register list. This could lead to domestic production of hemp-derived CBD products, but Brazil cannot produce its own medical marijuana products.

That should represent a strong opportunity for cannabis producers in countries that permit exports, as Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and it has a population of more than 200 million people to target.

Khiron Life Sciences Corp. (TSXV: KHRN) was among the producers to welcome the news. “With a population of over 200 million, this will directly benefit the health and wellbeing of a significant number of patients in Brazil and affirms our position as a LatAm leader in a rapidly globalizing cannabis market,” said co-founder and vice president Andres Galofre.

Anvisa announced that only licensed pharmacies will be permitted to commence medical cannabis sales, and all patients must obtain a prescription from a specialist doctor. Qualifying conditions include epilepsy and pain symptoms associated with chronic conditions.

President Jair Bolsonaro has previously expressed support for medical cannabis, but he continues to oppose domestic cultivation. The legalization resolution was approved unanimously and it is valid for an initial three-year term.

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