Brazilian City of Goiânia Declares Cannabis Day

The capital city of the state of Goiás in central Brazil declares November 27th as the auspicious date.

This landmark event in Goiânia, approved by the majority of the city council, was chosen to be a Municipal Day of Cannabis Therapy — and a complement to a municipal law that allows for the distribution of cannabis-based medicines citywide.

According to Councilwoman Aava Santiago, “the action favours research and reduces prejudice.”

The aim of this project is to encourage cannabis education, foster debate amongst patients, and encourage both research and the medicinal use of cannabinoid-based products. The idea, essentially, is to jump-start a cannabis industry and network in a city where the last mayor vetoed the idea.

The chosen day, at the opposite end of the calendar from the more traditional April 20, was chosen to coincide with the National Day for Combating Cancer. Activists in Goiânia made the choice.

In doing so, it also becomes the first “Cannabis Day” in the world not to be celebrated in spring.

It is also only the second municipal action in the world to elevate cannabis this way. The other is the Estonian town of Kanepi, which adopted a cannabis leaf flag for the town after an online poll in 2018.

The State of Cannabis Reform in Brazil

Last summer, in June, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies’ Special Commission approved PL 399/2015 which would legalize the domestic cultivation of cannabis for medicinal, veterinary, scientific, and industrial purposes. The bill then moved forward domestically as federal lawmakers defied the wishes of the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly tried to undo reform with many threats of vetoes.

The move in Goiânia seems to be a deliberately provocative action also aimed at finalizing the inevitable legalization of cannabis nationally. Indeed, this is very much like the city of Boulder leading a charge for the state of Colorado — the only difference being that a majority of federal lawmakers are also defying the President to support the same.

The Significance of Brazilian Cannabis Reform

Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest nation in the world. It forms a large triangle on the eastern side of the continent and borders every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.

To put this in perspective, just in terms of what the impact of reform will mean to a national if not international cannabis industry, Brazil is 24 times bigger than Germany in terms of landmass and with 212.6 million citizens, a population approximately 2.65 times larger. It is also about 86% of the size of the U.S. with about 120 million fewer people. 

Cannabis reform here, in other words, would be significant, no matter how one slices it. The promotion of the medical industry will have lasting impact domestically, while the export of cannabinoids in whatever form, will present a formidable new source for global sourcing.

The Southern Hemisphere’s “Emerald Triangle?”

Cannabis cultivation is no stranger to Brazil. 

The only problem, of course, is that cannabis production, of the medical grade and commercial, as well as the illegal kind, is notoriously unsustainable in fragile land like rainforests.

That does not mean, however, that there is no cannabis grown under these virgin canopies. Indeed, according to a 2020 federal police report, illegal cannabis cultivation is spreading rapidly throughout the Amazon. According to a November 2021 study, Cartography of Violence in the Amazon region, illicit cannabis production is directly linked to both deforestation and a rise of violence.

Brazil is estimated to be losing 24 trees per second to this kind of activity. 

And then there is the impact of climate change and forest fires on Brazil’s landrace strains. In 2019, a forest fire came close to wiping out Brazil Amazonia, a 500 year old and widely-crossed native strain here, forever. The Amazon rainforest is the only place in the world where this strain grows in nature. Introduced in 1549, the natives traditionally used it for the relief of pain.

Sustainable Cannabis

No matter the challenges that cultivation creates here, Brazil is also a perfect laboratory for finding and preserving landrace cannabis as well as finding ways to cultivate it, even for commercial purposes, in ways that are not environmentally destructive.

Whether that opportunity will materialize is another question. It will take dedication, focus, money, and political will to do so.

If the citizens of Goiânia have any say in the matter, along with evolving political forces on a federal level, that is also a possibility. Or, as they say locally, “voce está com a faca e o queijo na mão” — or “you have the knife and the cheese in your hand” — meaning everything is in your power to succeed.

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