BR: An NGO grows medical cannabis to help patients

Surrounded by barbed wire and an electric fence, cannabis plants flourish under the bright sun on a farm in a mountainous area outside Rio de Janeiro. But this farm has nothing to do with drug trafficking. It belongs, in fact, to a pioneering Brazilian NGO engaged in the production of medical cannabis to help patients with seizures.

Margarete Brito, a lawyer by training, first started growing cannabis several years ago to relieve the seizures of her daughter Sofia, now 12, who is suffering from epilepsy. After seeing her condition improve, Brito decided to help other patients too. So she founded the Medical Cannabis Research and Patient Support Association, or Apepi, which produces artisanal therapeutic oils made from cannabis to help patients with conditions similar to her daughter's.

That work has required a lot of effort since growing cannabis remains illegal in Brazil. "If we follow the letter of the law, nothing authorizes us to do that," Brito told AFP. But she and her husband, Marcos Langenbach, were able to obtain an unprecedented judicial authorization to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes in 2016.

Today, their farm -- about two hours by car from the Brazilian capital -- has 2,000 plants growing there to help patients with severe autism, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.


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