Times Changing: Brazil’s First Cannabis Grow Book Published


Photo: Sergio Vidal
“I have a feeling that at any moment I will be summoned by the police.” Author Sergio Vidal holds “Cannabis Medicinal,” the first marijuana grow book ever published in Brazil

Exclusive Interview: Author/Activist Sergio Vidal

​In a sure sign that attitudes toward cannabis are changing worldwide, the first-ever cannabis grow book has been published in Brazil — and it may well be the first grow book printed in the Portuguese language.

Cannabis Medicinal author Sergio Vidal, a marijuana activist, told Toke of the Town that just the discussion of weed — let alone its use and possession — is surrounded by taboos, legal prohibitions, and repression.
“We are a young democracy,” Vidal told us. “We lived in a military dictatorship for many years in the 1960s and 70s. Our Constitution is only 22 years old. And the drug laws are a reflection of this dictatorial period.”
According to Vidal, Brazil’s drug laws include one article that criminalizes conduct “encouraging the use of drugs,” which means you can be arrested for simply advocating the legalization of cannabis. That makes me realize how well we have it here in the States, where more than a year of Toke of the Town has resulted in zero police interference.
“Events such as the Marijuana March have been considered criminal in many cities,” Vidal told us. “The law has been used on several occasions to criminalize social movements for legalization.”

‘I have a feeling that at any moment I will be summoned by the police’

Photo: Sergio Vidal

​In such an uncertain atmosphere, being a cannabis activist is a much more dangerous calling than in the United States, according to Vidal.
“I confess that I have a feeling that at any moment I will be summoned by the police to provide information about the book,” he told us. “This has already occurred in 2008 when I was organizing the Marijuana March in Salvador, Bahia. As I said, here in Brazil, social movements fighting for legalization have been consistently criminalized.”
Nevertheless, there have been many advancements in the discussions on medical cannabis, according to Vidal. “These advances are mainly due to the efforts of activists and groups of more enlightened scientists who have reinforced the urgent need to legalize medical cannabis and to rethink the laws on cannabis in general,” he said.
Vidal told us he doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting busted.
“I have no fear, because now I have many contacts that would help me in such a case,” he said. “And above all, because today I have a lot more certainty that I am doing the right thing to ensure a good future for my daughter and future generations.”
“At the same time, today I am a nationally recognized activist and many people know that my work is serious,” Vidal told us. “But I know that many reactionaries might want to use the book to promote themselves as ‘guardians of morality’ to the general public.”
Brazilian Cultivation Scene Still Small, But Growing

Photo: Sergio Vidal

​The cannabis cultivation scene in Brazil is still relatively small, given the size of the country, according to Vidal, but each year more Brazilians become interested in the topic.
“The first chapter in the book was written by a friend of mine — a lawyer — who explains this gap in the law and teaches how to make a cannabis cultivation request to the government,” Vidal said.
In one of the biggest leaps ever made by the Brazilian cannabis movement, in 2006 a new law was passed — Law 11.343 — under which it remained a crime to possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use (no dealing), but gave fines and alternative sentences with no prison.
“Marijuana users can no longer be arrested, even those who grow their own pot,” Vidal told us. “However, many users who have been cultivating still spend many days in detention until they can prove they are not dealers.”
Penalties for marijuana dealers range from five to 15 years in prison, according to Vidal.
“Interestingly, this law also provides that establishments can apply to cultivate cannabis for medicinal and scienticfic purposes,” Vidal told us, “but there is no news of any establishment that has made the request.” Sounds like nobody wants to be the first to stick their neck out.
“Many users have gained knowledge of the new law and many people are working up the courage to grow, due to the increasing number of cases of growers who were arrested but later released,” he told us. “It has also grown the number of organized groups in several towns that struggle for legalization.”
Legalization Gaining Momentum

Photo: Cannabis Medicinal

​Several prominent politicians, scientists and other public figures have come out in favor of legalization, and that has helped the idea gain momentum, according to Vidal.
“Official data is that about 7 percent of the population has smoked pot at least once in their lifetime,” Vidal told us. “I think this number is much higher.”
There is also a growing number of grow shops and head shops, “and this is a sign that there are many users in the country,” Vidal said. “However, most of the marijuana is still coming from large-scale cultivation in the northeast of the country and imported from neighboring countries, mainly from Paraguay.”
The biggest difference in the American and Brazilian cannabis legalization movements is a stronger respect for individual rights in the U.S., according to Vidal.
“Even though they may be against legalization, people in America would never agree that being pro-legalization should be criminalized,” Vidal told us. “In Brazil, many think the correct thing to do is to criminalize the movement fighting for legalization.”
Also more prevalent in the U.S. is the feeling that individuals and organizations should lobby the government for change, according to Vidal.
“In Brazil, many individuals are waiting for change to occur on its own, or await the emergence of initiatives which they can support,” he said. “But that is changing and I hope that happens quickly.”
There is also the fact that in Brazil the court still operates differently according to the social class and economic status of people — but, of course, that could be accurately said of the U.S. “justice” system, as well.
A Long Road Ahead
Cannabis will eventually be legalized in Brazil, Vidal believes, but it might be difficult to do so without the United States going first.
“I find it very difficult for Brazil to legalize without a major change
in the U.S. that signals there will no longer be sanctions against countries which legalize the plant,” Vidal told us. “There is still in Brazil a strong sense of dependence, and this prevents the government from making decisions which clash with international agreements we have signed.”
“Personally, I believe that major changes will come from civil society initiatives, which we already see happening,” Vidal said, “with such things as marches, a movement of organized growers, and more.”
Vidal wants not only legalization of the plant, but also a formal apology from the government to all persons who have been harmed by marijuana prohibition.
But he has no illusion that the fight to get there will be easy — or quick.
“As I think this will not happen so soon, I guess I still have many years of fighting ahead,” Vidal told us.
“Sad to say this,” he told Toke of the Town, “but I think I will die before I stop fighting.”
Book Available For Sale
Vidal’s book, Cannabis Medicinal, is available for mail order purchase through the web. (Remember, the book is in Portuguese, but even if you don’t speak the language, you might still want a souvenir copy of Brazil’s very first grow book.)
For American/Brazilian currency exchange rates, see here.
To order a copy, visit http://www.cultivomedicinal.com.br/.