Brazil approves medical marijuana, as Latin America drug taboo softens

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Brazil has approved medicinal cannabis-based products, the country’s pharmaceutical regulator Anvisa said on Tuesday, becoming the latest drug-ravaged Latin American nation to sign off on medical marijuana.

The new regulations will be published in the country’s official gazette in the next few days and come into law 90 days after that, Anvisa said. It also set out specific rules for the manufacture, import, sale, packaging, marketing and regulation of the new class of cannabis-based products.

Latin America has suffered countless drug-related deaths in recent decades, and stop-start moves toward the legalization of medical - and even recreational - marijuana in countries like Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay represent a broader reassessment of drug laws in a region long-typified by aggressive prohibition.

Brazil’s decision is also part of a slowly changing worldwide view toward illegal drugs, with growing investment into the medicinal benefits of marijuana and other narcotics.

Nonetheless, in regional terms, Brazil may be arriving late, with both Uruguay and Colombia having both legalized medical marijuana and actively working toward gaining a firm foothold in the booming multibillion-dollar global market.

Uruguay was the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana in December 2013 in a pioneering social experiment closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

Colombia has also legalized medical marijuana, while in Mexico, the supreme court ordered the country’s health ministry to speed up its issuance of medical marijuana regulations, with recreational cannabis also being discussed by lawmakers.

Anvisa said that cannabis-based products will only be available for sale in registered pharmacies, and with a prescription. (Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Andrea Ricci)