Federal judge Renato Coelho Borelli, from the 14th branch of the Federal District, asked Anvisa (Health Surveillance Agency) for an explanation about the ban on importing flowers from cannabis for patients. Last Wednesday (20), the agency revoked the technical note – Regulation of the Collegiate Board No. 660 –, which allowed purchasing them for individual and therapeutic use, for Brazilians with health problems, attested by the doctor. On the same day, Gustavo Vicente Santana, 32 years old, filed a popular action, which could reverse Anvisa’s veto. He suffers from anxiety, attention disorder and tremors, diagnosed in adolescence, and controlled with cannabis.
Santana works as a web designer, at home, despite having a law degree. Probably, a choice linked to the difficulty of dealing with emotional disturbances, which have always shaken him. The list of symptoms attested by doctor Lorena Feliz e Silva is long: “tachycardia, sweating, retrosternal pain, racing thoughts, impaired sleep, frequent headaches, fatigue, weight gain, difficulty socializing, mood swings, irritability, discomfort when attending crowded places, alcohol abuse”.
He even regularly attended therapy sessions, using controlled medications, which helped to reduce the physical symptoms, but brought unwanted side effects, such as worsening Essential Tremor, apathy, loss of libido, excessive sleepiness during the day. “There is still fear from the patient in relation to dependence on the substances used and the implication of the constant use of these medications”, writes the doctor in the report attached to the file. It is a symptom that hinders professional activity and socialization, the tremor only improved with the treatment of cannabis. According to Silva, it also improves sleep quality, self-esteem, mood and daily activities. He drinks flower tea and makes the oil at home.
But it’s not just Santana’s physical and emotional condition that weighed in on the judge’s decision. The action seeks to challenge the ban on importing flowers – published in Technical Note No. 35/2023 – as it is an initiative of the Coordination for Control and International Trade in Controlled Products of the 5th Board of Anvisa. “By our interpretation, it is not up to an Anvisa department to annul a regulation written and published by the collegiate board. There is a technical error in that”, says Gabriel Dutra Pietricovsky, lawyer from Santana. If the situation were in a private company, it would be the same as a department overturning a decision of the group’s executive board.
The Technical Note in question justifies the prohibition, considering that “so far, there is no robust scientific evidence that proves safety, in addition to the high potential for diversion for illicit purposes”. In recent months, advertisements for the sale of flowers have appeared on social networks, through RDC nº660, but for recreational and not therapeutic purposes. The issue became controversial in the sector, which led BRCann (Brazilian Association of Cannabinoid Industries) to publish a letter, calling attention to the misuse of purpose by some market players.
Anvisa granted a transition period of 60 days for the conclusion of the ongoing import processes, as well as the development of the authorizations already issued for the in natura plant. They will be valid until September 20. “To punish people who act outside the law, Anvisa is compromising the health of people who are undergoing treatment”, says Pietricovsky. “With this decision, she gives the impression that she only wants to get rid of being, in some way, responsible for the problems that may arise.”
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