The ABRACE Foundation (Associação Brasileira de Apoio Cannabis Esperança) in Brazil supplies over 1000 patients with medical cannabis every day. In 2016, the foundation was given legal permission to continue producing, extracting and providing medical cannabis.
This “medical cannabis” is not GMP certified and has not been produced by GW, Tilray or any of the other global licensed producers who are currently looking to license their CDMP’s in the UK.
ABRACE grows cannabis organically outdoors, extracting into a whole plant medicine using lipid fat, providing it to patients who need it most.
Some of the medicinal plants ABRACE grows to make into life-saving medicines
Many of these are children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy, autism, and ailments that are not easily treated with conventional medicines. Many of these children symptoms, such as daily seizures have been reduced considerably and all have reported an improved quality of life.
These whole plant tinctures offer ratios of 20:1 and 2:1, using seeds provided by ‘Medical Marijuana Genetics’, ABRACE have been able to provide consistent medicines that have not only been effective, but have been made by simply growing a suitable plant then cooking its dried flowers in a fat for 6 hours before sieving.
We meet with ABRACE founder, Cassiano, to find out how he went from treating a few patients illegally, to gaining the first legal permission in Brazil to provide medical cannabis for 1,000s of people.
Cassiano: medical cannabis warrior bringing life-saving medicines to 1,000s of children across Brazil
As with most medical cannabis activists, Cassiano’s first experience of cannabis was recreational:
“I was 23 years old at Pipa´s Beach, Brazil, when a close friend who passed me a joint.”
“I moved to the USA, and bought my first seed from Marc Emery and I managed to harvest my first crop while over there.
“When Lula [Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] became President, I decide to come back to Brazil and help my country to rebuild.”
Inspired by legendary cannabis activist Rick Simpson and family tragedy, Cassiano told us how he was driven to help those patients left behind by Brazil’s government:
“I properly started my medical cannabis activism in 2013. I guess we all started with Rick Simpson and cancer in 2013.
“I lost my aunt Marta to cancer in 2013. I always suspect that medicines are the real cancer. They kill you faster due to the effects on body and mind!
“I could not help her at that time and it still bothers me to know the cure, but unfortunately, my hands were tied.
“After my Aunt passed away, my mother became ill and with doctors suspecting she has lung cancer! That’s when I decide to try my first oil made in the kitchen stove.”
CD-1: Some of the great quality cannabis ABRACE is able to produce in their state of the art facilities
Amazingly, Cassiano’s homemade oil was able to save his mother.
“My mother recover in 24 hours,” he told us, detailing how cannabis improved his mother’s condition; “She recovered her appetite, energy, and happiness.
“After being bedridden for 5 days, just one hour after I gave her the oil she woke up, got out of bed and began cleaning dishes and Facebooking!
Seeing the incredible results his mother had with medical cannabis, Cassiano’s future as a medical cannabis activist was sealed.
“After I helped my mother I could not stop!
“In 2014 I came across Charlotte’s Web on TV, the case of a little girl who had frequent epileptic seizures, with her mother trying a CBD-rich cannabis oil CBD rich. This was the first time I heard about CBD.”
Charlotte Figi, the inspiration behind Charlotte’s Web, has helped propel CBD into the mainstream; highlighting how different conditions require different ratios of cannabinoids.
“I started to import CW oil but no one wanted to send to Brazil back then.
“After browsing Google, we found HempMeds who ship hemp oil worldwide as it can pass unnoticed by the law as regular stalk and seed hemp oil.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Cassiano and the families he was trying to help in the early days.
“One mother had her order stoped by ANVISA, a Brazilian agency for medicine control,” Cassiano explained.
Making the most out of the set-back, Cassiano and other activists used the situation to raise national awareness of medical cannabis and the patients desperate for access. “We ended up on TV. We made so much noise!,” Cassiano added.
ABRACE campaigners hard at work boxing up their medical cannabis products
“One mother from Brasilia filed a case against the State and she won!
“Now, she was legally allowed to import. ANVISA went ahead and released a resolution allowing us to import hemp oil, with the excuse that it has no THC.
The extortionate prices of imported CBD from America, coupled with exchange rates, nearly made it impossible for Cassiano and his workforce to provide affordable medication to patients:
“We had no idea that the costly medicine was in US dollar, so any variation of its price would affect us.
“In 2016, with the dollar price, the cost went up by more than 50% compared to 2015.
“This led me to test my own oil on the children.
“Even though I knew growing was illegal Brazil, and I could face up to 15 years in jail, I could not watch those children cry.”
From humble beginnings to state-of-the-art facilities. ABRACE is leading the way in cannabis research in Brazil
Through bravery and selflessness, Cassiano was able to treat his first patient with his own homemade cannabis oil. “I shipped my oil to João, the first kid to use my medicine,” Cassiano told us.
“João became seizure free in just 10 days!
“He spent a whole 30 days without seizures, with his mother becoming the first president and co-founder of ABRACE, as we registered as a non-profit in my home town in the northeast of Brazil.”
“As a small town, I knew the guy who registered the foundation. He knew that my brother also suffers epilepsy as well.
“Even though most incentives around here don’t normally get past this stage, he was happy to help us get registered.
“We rented a house and started to prepare for the future.”
Medical Cannabis Warrior: Brave young João with his mother collecting his medicine
Initially, Cassiano began by using strains he could find from street dealers, with growing being too risky, potentially jeopardising the organisation’s legal existence.
However, cannabis bought from the street often contains very little CBD, as recreational consumers are looking to enjoy the high which comes from high-THC, low-CBD strains.
“Instead of growing here, we decided to buy weed from local guys,” Cassiano explained. “I knew street weed wouldn’t have much CBD, so initially we made oil with mostly THC.
“My only concern was to not overheat the oil, as we didn’t want cases of kids getting stoned.
“We’ve had success with every child so far, so I don’t believe it’s a matter of CBD v. THC at all. In my view, it’s more likely due to energy and sedation symptoms. Plus, CBD can be presented in both sativas and indicas; I think most strains are hybrids.
“The oil we make is different to hemp oil; it gives children energy, awareness and strength, as well as stopping seizures.
“We believe it can act as a neuroprotection for kids who have seizures, it helps get them playing again.
A few years later, and the demand for Cassiano’s service was becoming increasingly more in demand. With the desire to help every patient he came across, Cassiano launched his campaign to provide high-quality medical cannabis at an affordable price.
Revolutionary: the medicines ABRACE are able to produce rival those made by pharmaceutical companies
“We could not wait any longer, so we sued the State in 2017 to allow us to grow, produce and provide the medicine for the 155 patients we had at the time.
“Judge Vannesa Trigueiro a federal court substitute judge, took our case. She was recent mother who has a little girl with 3 years old. She began crying when she heard the audio interviews from the mothers begging her to permit us to grow.
“Around April she ruled in our favour! She allowed us to keep doing what were doing, all we need to do was ask for proof of prescription and proof of the condition.
“We were only 5 people working at risk when the sentence was passed, and we became the first association nationwide to have a court permit to grow and produce medical cannabis!
Since that ruling, ABRACE has exploded:
“As of today, our foundation is currently assisting 967 patients,” Cassiano said. “But we have more than 1,000 families, as many people take 2 -3 months to reorder.
“We now employ 27 people, my brother included, because after we won permission he became more comfortable to try the medicine.
“I guess all my families try some sort of product I make: salves, creams, oils, even teas! They’re seeing benefits for every medical condition you can imagine!
“Cannabis is not one medicine for one kind of decease. It’s the other way around. It’s one medicine for every kind of condition.
“I believe that back in 1900, big Pharma back sponsored prohibition in order to make patent a new way to became a major industry.”
ABRACE treats a wide variety of patients with an ever increasing number of conditions. Discussing the patients he treats, Cassiano explained:
“Epilepsy is the most common illness we are currently treating, but autism is in a close second.
“Autism cases are now coming in more frequent waves, as there is a lot of reports in the media on new research promoting cannabis for autism.
“While we used to nearly exclusively treat epilepsy, today we are treating patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and those suffering from chronic pain.
“After I helped my mother I could not stop!”
– Cassiano, Founder ABRACE Foundation
The results the organisation is having, speaks for itself:
“I’d say around 70% of our patients are finding real relief with our medicines.
“The major issues we’re finding, however, is firstly, that patients are only starting to really see results once they’ve fully stopped using their old, pharmaceutical, medications.
“Secondly, most mothers are terrified as they are not getting support from their doctors to remove these neuroblocking pharmaceutical medications.
The range of products ABRACE makes for its patients has expanded to include a wide range of medicines
“As cannabinoids can act as neuroprotectors, they are a safe way to help patients withdraw from their previous medicines.
“When parents make the decision to take their kids off these medications, we start to see great results.
“The children start to regain the ability to walk! Some of them are two years’ seizure free!
“So, from the results, we can say that our cannabis medicines are highly effective, and more importantly, safe.
Finding the right genetics can be essential for certain conditions, particularly epilepsy, which seems to respond better to oils made from strains with higher amounts of CBD than THC:
“We have started to use genetics from Medical Marijuana Genetics.
CD-1, Medical Marijuana Genetics’ flagship strain boasts an world record setting 25:1 CBD:THC ratio
“Txaki and CD-1 have proven the best strains so far.
“I think 1:1 ratio is the best I know for any medical condition, as it provides an initial high and then sedation.
“CD-1, however, gives a more calming effect as it has a lot of CBD. There’s too much demand for CD-1 at the moment!
“CBD is becoming more famous in Brazil, as doctors feel more secure prescribing it.”
Providing medication made from cannabis can be a tricky process. Cassiano has produced a variety of products to help treat different conditions:
“When administering the oils to children, we start with drops under the tongue. But I’ve developed a nasal spray for epileptic rescue, and a balm which can help topic conditions.
“We now have three types of oil, with three different ratios of cannabinoids, with a further two types of nasal spray.
“We’ve just began working on suppositories and capsules, but the main thing we’ve been working on has been improving the taste of the oils. We mainly use vegetable glycerin and olive oil, but cater to parent’s requests.
“I also recently began working with a “Magic Butter” machine, which works well.
“In 2017 we started to use alcohol in our extraction process, mixing it with other carriers after. We’re now are looking into CO2 extraction, but this is an expensive process that I only can dream about (for now!).
“For me, our most successful treatment has been that of a wonderful child, Sofia, who is now seizure-free and able to walk again.
“We also have a Parkinson’s patient, Mr. Jonas, who we’ve been keeping a video record of his progression.
“We also have had great success with dogs! Our lawyer has a dog with epilepsy who is now seizure free after using our cannabis oil.”
Cassiano parted with some wisdom for those inspired by his story to start their own medical cannabis journey:
“All countries have a legal system to protect people, so this must be utilised when human rights are at stake, right? So, why not establish organisations to try and fight for these rights!
“Non-governmental organisations are easier to establish and to help organise the fight. But, we cannot afford to wait for the law to change.
“My advice is to get together with other activists, register a non-profit, and get a lawyer to help file a lawsuit against the State… see what happens!”
Despite spear-heading Brazil’s first legal medical cannabis non-profit, Cassiano has big plans for the future:
“We are going professional with all departments working flawlessly so we can grow more and help more people. Today we can only hold 1,000 patients at a time, so all-in-all, we only can help 2,000 patients within our current structure.
“We’re planning on starting a new facility in 2019 in Campina Grande, a 2 hours city from Joao Pessoa where the main building is.
“For me, who saw the advent of the internet, I compare the increase in popularity of medical cannabis to the spread of internet and the bubble in 1998. It’s going to grow and grow!
“Many countries will be the leaders, but one day location, cost, quality and price will determine the market.
“We want to be a part of that market. We want to become more and more affordable, even reaching the point where we can provide free medicine for those who cannot afford the R$ 0,05 per mg we are charging.
“We charge around $47 (USD) for a 60 ml bottle cost, compared to $255 (USD) for an imported equivalent, and that’s before the shipping and tax!
Cassiano’s story serves as an important reminder that sometimes to do the right thing, you may have to break the law.
Conversely, the responsibility to provide patients with access to safe medication should not lay with activists. Is there another approach that the UK Government could take?
Until the day when the Government finally bases its policies on scientific evidence and compassion, could you be making medical cannabis for your local community?
If you treated 5 people successfully, recorded all your patient info and presented your case to a high court judge, would he grant you clemency and provide legal permission to make more medicine?
We can only dare to dream, but that’s exactly how the first access happened in Brazil.