* Speech given by the president of the Humanitas360 Institute, Patrícia Villela Marino, at the Regenerative Cannabis Live (Regennabis) event, held at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York on May 5th. On the occasion, Patrícia was the only Brazilian representative among the panelists, and discussed how the cannabis market can drive a regenerative society.
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Read the full text below:
It is a pleasure for me to speak on behalf of the Brazilian delegation, representing the Humanitas Institute 360, and deal with the issue of social regeneration, for every and each one, concerning a market that has emerged in an unprecedented way.
This market, that was criminalized and has marginalized racialized bodies and stigmatized cultures, came out of illegality by scientific research, investigative advocacy and by the practice of citizenship. A market that today shall promote climate justice and a less unequal future.
We know that any new market is a world of possibilities in itself. But THIS new market in special has a healing DNA and an ancestral heritage that takes us back to the original peoples and also to the history of the great discoveries and their consequences: colonization, the extermination of the original peoples and the atrocities of slavery.
The medical and industrial cannabis industry is dignified, both for its humanitarian character, undoubtedly, and also for the opportunity of historical reparation. A reparation with an economic perspective capable of including marginalized peoples as agents of this new bioeconomy and thus regenerating their own capitalism .
It is a privilege to emphasize in this debate that science and citizenship go together and are fundamental pillars of the expansion of consciousness as well as the promotion of necessary peace for human and economic development.
I am honored to bring this issue from all the Brazilian people devoted to the democratic movement of legalization of medicinal and industrial cannabis.
This is the message that I want to leave to the Brazilian authorities, women and men of the public management in my country, who, for personal interests, have not yet understood that cannabis is a public agenda of health, work, income, institutional and scientific development, restoration of degraded biomes.
Cannabis is the Agribusiness ESG that respects and promotes the objectives of sustainable development!
If today the medical and industrial cannabis industry seems so far from the imaginary Brazilian citizen, despite the growing demand, I come here to remind everyone that it hasn´t always been like that.
In the 1970s, a Brazilian doctor in São Paulo and a Bulgarian-Israeli chemist in Jerusalem were protagonists in the research of the anticonvulsant property of the medicinal plant Cannabis sativa and, together, published more than 40 articles on it.
In the 1980s, Brazil was also a protagonist on another front in which health issues were overshadowed by prejudice: that of the new HIV/AIDS epidemic. At a time when the virus was still restricted to minority and stigmatized groups, Brazil listened to activists, recognized the legitimacy of their demands and overcame homophobia to articulate an immediate answer centered on how to care about it and it involved governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations working in the territory, in a hitherto unprecedented model of governance.
This partnership between government and civil society was so successful that the country became a pioneer in the creation of a national program to combat the epidemic. The centrality of such care encouraged Brazil to face the powerful globalized pharmaceutical industry and break patents for antiretroviral drugs, which began to be offered free of charge for the treatment of all carriers of the virus through the SUS, our public health system. The guarantee of the right to health was absolutely a priority.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the field of medicinal cannabis. The result of the Brazilian research left no doubt about the beneficial effects of the plant in people with severe and refractory epilepsy, and scientists indicated this potential in their articles. But the industry was repelled by the difficulties inherent in the use of a proscribed and criminalized substance. Cannabis was hitherto known only as marijuana and had already been associated even to the devil by moral entrepreneurs.
Thirty years had gone by and, without any interest from the legislator, the study was restricted to a small group of researchers. Then a group of mothers of children who suffered from severe and refractory epilepsy became aware of practices here in the USA with very positive results.
THESE MOTHERS HAD NO TIME TO LOSE! And they started producing the CBD to save their children.
It is hard to believe, but in the same Brazil that helped reveal to the world the anticonvulsant effects of CBD, the use of cannabidiol was considered a crime!!!
A movement of love, pain and citizenship organized by these mothers and with the participation of people from all branches of society forced Brazil, and its authorities, to take a first step, small and late, but necessary. Because life is non-negotiable!
Mothers, protagonists of the greatest pain — suffering or even the loss of a child’s life — began to obtain authorization from the federal government to legally import CBD for medicinal purposes. A story very well recorded in the documentary “Illegal”, which is on YouTube.
It was 2014, the same year that the Humanitas Institute 360 was founded here in the Usa by my family, supported by a group of humanist philanthropists, outraged by the effects of the war against drugs in Latin America, which annihilated generations of poor and marginalized citizens.
In that same year, while a few Brazilian mothers finally received authorization to legally import CBD-based drugs, the United States already had 20 states with entire markets for legalized medicinal cannabis, not to mention the 4 federative units in which the plant became legal for its three uses: medicinal, recreational and industrial, in food production, fabrics and other materials, moving more than $4 billion a year.
DEFINITELY, Brazil had lost prominence, time and opportunities! It lost all that and today it keeps losing lives.
Eight years later, Brazil is still moving slowly in creating a regulatory legal framework that allows the development of this production chain in the country, whether in the field of medicinal, industrial or adult use.
Brazil, at the forefront, ended up falling far behind.
In the field of medicinal cannabis, economic access is made impossible by the dollarization of the product. Internal cultivation is, in this sense, fundamental so that we can have a national industry producing for Brazilians making a living with one or some minimum wages!
In the industrial field, of the production of food, cosmetics, fabrics and even biodegradable plastics from hemp, Brazil is crawling while China, the world’s largest hemp stem producer, is home to an industry of 1 billion and 700 million dollars.
I ask entrepreneurs, industrialists and representatives of the Brazilian Republican powers: Why have they agreed not to be economically competitive? Why did they choose to be deficits in an industry of so many gains?
I answer: Because we all let ideology and prejudice overcome science. Because we neglect the responsibility of generating economic conditions to a population whose majority lives in sanitary scarcity, to say the least.
Today, Brazil has the third largest prison population on the planet,standing behind only China and the United States. There are more than 750,000 people arrested, with 30% of men and 65% of women incarcerated for drug law-related crimes. Most of these women are also mothers, and have found in trafficking a means of survival in a scenario of poverty, unemployment and economic crisis.
The Humanitas 360 Institute works with some of these mothers in social cooperatives that operate within prisons to promote skills and generate income opportunities for a new future.
And it is from this type of action that Humanitas began to see closely the social damage, intentional or unintentional, caused by decades of criminalization and stigmatization of cannabis. A policy that violated fundamental rights of several generations, and which still disproportionately affects certain populations and localities through violent police actions and mass incarceration.
We lose lives, we lose human capital, we lose natural resources!
With that in mind, I would like the people here to think of a central question: What is to be regenerative in this context?
A new market, a new industry and a new production chain, inclusive of new actors, previously marginalized, can promote regeneration: from exploitative capital to civic capital from historical reparation and the reconstruction of social bonds of trust.
The timing could not be more opportune, with the rise of the ESG criteria in various productive sectors.
In this framework of the movement for an ESG canabic ecosystem, I insist that the objectives of sustainable development are a “road map” for the humanization of production, distribution, access, research and trade. I put the “S”, the social, in double capital. Yes, because it is capable of regenerating society.
Estimates indicate that the legalization in Brazil of industrial hemp, for example, would generate, at the end of four years, more than 1 billion dollars in sales of its derivatives, while the state would raise more than 68 million dollars, generating a few hundred thousand jobs.
In the scenario of legalization and regulation of cannabis for medicinal, adult and industrial use, these numbers rise to nearly $5.5 billion in sales and more than 1.5 billion taxes. We cannot afford to lose so many opportunities and resources.
Brazil has been left behind in this field, but it must and can resume its leading position. Brazilians have already led experiences in the field of health that have become a model for the world, as in the case of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we have the potential to resume this position in the field of medicinal and industrial cannabis.
2022 is a year of crucial elections in Brazil. The context of extreme political polarization in the country cannot scare away sensitive and important debates like this. The state needs to position itself by science, care for its citizens and human, social and economic development.
I believe, we work at the Humanitas Institute 360 like that, that philanthropic capital should be venture capital in promoting mindset and public policies where the “status quo” represses, asphyxia and kills.
With so much research and evidence, we have the opportunity and ethical and moral responsibility to repair damage promoted by decades of institutional architecture and structural racism that exclude and violate rights. Brazil has already lost too many people and too much time.
And might we be, the organized civil society, the ones to give a start to this virtuous cycle. The time for acting is now!