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Cannabis capitalism and the regulation of medical Cannabis in Brazil: the construction of Cannabis commodity

Grant number: 20/12131-6
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: February 01, 2021 - January 31, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Political Science - International Politics
Principal Investigator:Paulo José dos Reis Pereira
Grantee:Paulo José dos Reis Pereira
Host Institution: Faculdade de Ciências Sociais. Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers:Henrique Soares Carneiro ; Mauricio Fiore ; Priscila Villela


Since 1925, cannabis has become a focus of the multilateral drug control. Such control over cannabis evolved, in the second half of the 20th century, into a global ban of the plant. This centuries-old international framework of prohibition, however, has undergone important changes in recent years. Several countries or federative units around the world have eased restrictions on its industrial, medicinal and even recreational use. In Brazil, despite its tremendous penal restrictions, the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) regulated the sale of cannabis-based products in pharmacies for medical use in 2019. In early 2020, the agency also approved rules to facilitate the import of medicinal products based on one of the main cannabis substances, CBD.Such national and international transformations have created a global multi-billion dollar market, in which Brazil inserts slowly. This new capitalist dynamics of cannabis, "cannabis capitalism", is characterized by cannabis commercialization at a global level, implying the construction of new social spaces for the production, commercialization and consumption of this drug, as well as the emergence of new actors and interests. Corporations that sell various cannabis products, many of them acting transnationally, are key players in this new social space. They seek to shape the flexibility of the regulations of this plant following their objectives of commercial expansion. However, despite its relevance, few studies are dedicated to understanding their political role in this emerging international market. With this in mind, the objective of this project is to understand the role of corporations involved in the cannabis market in building the meanings of "cannabis commodity". We hypothesize that such meanings result from the articulation of three categories: health, safety, pleasure. The focus of the research will be the evolution of this process in Brazil, given the social importance of contributing to the public debate on this process, the greater feasibility of carrying out the fieldwork and its academic relevance, since the global process of the flexibility of regulations regarding this drug is gaining gradual visibility in Brazil, enabling a clearer identification of the inherent dynamics of the advance of global cannabis capitalism. To carry out this investigation, we opted for a research design focused on a qualitative approach. We will use the "historical representation" methodology and, as data collection strategies, interviews and virtual ethnography. The historical representation method will make it possible to interpret the representation that actors make of social reality, identifying how names, meanings and characteristics are linked to the cannabis commodity, contributing to the understanding of the knowledge/power structures that emerge from it. Its guiding question is: "who" builds claims of knowledge and truth about cannabis commodity, for what purposes and against what resistance? Data collection from virtual or online ethnography is based on websites and social networks of the cannabis business field and, particularly, of the corporations'. The interviews, in turn, will focus on people in leadership positions in cannabis corporations in Brazil, as well as in medical cannabis patient associations. Such interviews will enable the collection of first-hand testimonies from direct participants in the analyzed social process. Also, they will contribute to a triangulated analysis, in which the collected data are verified through multiple sources to increase the consistency of the results. (AU)

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