Interest in the Brazilian medical cannabinoid market is based on optimistic projections of growth continuing in the same vein rather than concrete current numbers, a domestic report has confirmed.
There has been significant international hype about the potential of the Brazilian cannabinoid market. But currently there are only 50,000 people making use of cannabis-based treatments in the country.
This includes users that import medications through the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) and those who are assisted by patients’ associations – meaning that users who access cannabis products through illicit means, or who purchase products available in Brazilian pharmacies, have not been considered in this statistic.
Current imports of cannabis medicines are rising rapidly. In 2015, when ANVISA authorised the importation of cannabis products for medical purposes, there were 825 registered importation requests. This number rose to 15,505 in 2020 – representing a 1,780% increase in the interest around cannabis product importation over five years.
However, only 439 cannabis products were allowed to be imported into Brazil. This could potentially lead to a USD$1.7bn valuation for the sector – if the income generated by cannabis products legally imported into Brazil continues as it did between 2015 and 2019.
This currently only contributes to a sector market value of about $8m for 2021 (with January to June having seen around $4m), according to the Brazilian market intelligence company Kaya Mind.
Growth is expected to be boosted by the legalisation of domestic cultivation, with Kaya Mind estimating usage could increase to 6.9m medical consumers.
Link to education ‘a positive sign’
However, there are hurdles that must be overcome. For example, only 2,100 out of roughly 500,000 doctors registered in Brazil prescribe cannabis as medical treatment.
Out of these, neurology formed the main specialist area (33%), followed by psychiatry (11%), paediatric neurology (7%) and radiology (5%).
Despite Brazil’s conservative cannabis regulation, the country is host to 153 companies currently working with cannabis or in cannabis-related areas. Businesses in the education sector make up 17% of these firms, including universities, research institutions, and various specialists that offer courses on cannabis.
For Kaya Mind, the fact that nearly a fifth of the companies in the country are linked to education is a positive sign, suggesting that interest in the potential of cannabis is increasing among Brazilians. This is also supported by 125 of the 153 firms in Brazil being of domestic origin.
Out of the remainder, the US comes next with 16 followed by Canada with four, Switzerland with three and the Netherlands with two. Australia, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, the UK, and Uruguay each have one cannabis company working in Brazil. The majority of these companies (72) are located in the capital, São Paulo.
This breakdown essentially matches the proportional distribution of origins for cannabis product imports, with just over 83% coming from the US, and others coming from Canada, Colombia, France, Holland, and Bulgaria.
Current demographics assembled by Kaya Mind show areas for potential growth. Currently men form a slight majority in terms of medical users (55%) while under-25s (those born between 1995 and 2010) represent 38% of current users. Meanwhile, 67% of users come from Brazil’s southeast – the region with the most cannabis companies and pro-cannabis doctors.
Kaya Mind believes the rise in the number of cannabis-related events from 2019 – when ANVISA’s Resolution 327 authorised the production of cannabis medicines – shows the increasing drive in interest in cannabis products. In particular, the number of online events on cannabis themes rose 300% in 2020, driven not only by Covid-19 but also by online events being cheaper, more practical and safer in a place like Brazil, where cannabis remains a taboo, Kaya Mind said.
– Beatriz Miranda CBD-Intel contributing writer
Photo: Jose Guertzenstein