One of the most active women in mobilizing for the regulation of medicinal andcannabis, Margarete was on a live with us on Instagram! Come hear more about how her individual fight for access to her kids medication was transformed into a collect fight in an cannabis association.
When Sofia was only 45 days old, her convulsions started – and, with them, the saga of Margarete and her family. According to her, in the beginning it was at least three months of a painful acceptance process, that her daughter could have a serious health problem. From then on, she took it upon herself to find something that could help the girl to have a better quality of life with less epileptic seizures. Margarete and Sofia were introduced to medical cannabis, and their life took on a new meaning.
Margarete Brito is a former lawyer and the executive coordinator of the Association for Support to Research and Patients of Medicinal Cannabis – Apepi. Since 2013, she helped to bring together patients, their families and people who believe in the power of therapeutic cannabis, in an environment of knowledge exchange, learning, conversation and, above all, fighting for the right to an accessible and less bureaucratic treatment.
We really admire all the achievements of this incredible woman, super engaged and moved by such an important cause. This week, Apepi received authorization to grow the cannabis that gives rise to the oil of so many patients – an essential step to further democratize the distribution of the substance, which, imported, can cost more than three thousand reais.
We had the opportunity to chat with her, to understand a little more about this incredible journey!
Here, we tell how this conversation went.
Everything has a beginning
It took some doctors and treatments until Margarete made the discovery of cannabis as a medical option in 2014, which worked partially and brought about a considerable improvement for Sofia. But a wonder happened to her friend Katiely, also the mother of a girl with a similar condition. After using the oil, the child went from 80 epileptic seizures a week to none.
“There was a Superinteressante journalist who found out about my story, called me, and I said ‘my story is this, but this is Katiely’s story. And it was incredible, because after the interview at Fantástico, a lot of people started looking for us. ”
Also in 2014, with this discovery, Apepi was created – it started small, with some parents of children who suffered from episodes of epilepsy. With the exposure generated by the story on television, several steps were taken: first, that the National Medical Council recognized cannabis as a medical prescription; then, the authorization of the National Health Surveillance Agency so that it could be imported.
But that was not all. Not all parents looking for Apepi were able to import cannabidiol – a cannabis substance used to reduce and prevent seizures. And that’s where self-cultivation came in. In 2016, Margarete says that the association was finally formalized, and, in addition to supporting family members, she, her husband Marcos and other members started to develop cultivation classes and distribute plants and seeds.
Peaceful civil disobedience
“The practice of civil disobedience, that was wonderful. This came up at Apepi, in a meeting, and became our narrative. This is a giant school, since Luther King: you resist a punitive law, but you don’t hide, you do it publicly. From the moment it is public, in a place where it is prohibited, you justify it and it takes on an important meaning. In the association’s cultivation class, we give plants, give seeds. ”
Even though Margarete got in contact with cannabis in 2014, it was only in 2016 that she won her first plant. At the time, she and her husband started to learn more, make clones, find out what the plant needed, with the help of friends from the cannabis activism in Rio de Janeiro.
For her, it is very important not only to recognize privileges, but to use this place of privilege to demand changes in unfair norms such as the prohibitionist policy, which has so many negative consequences for society.
“I never wanted to hide it, because I think it is absurd. I recognize my privileges, but there are many people with the same conditions as mine who do not reveal themselves, and I think that is to be anti-political. We don’t need everyone to be an activist, but I get really pissed off with people who plant in hiding. ”
Until that week, she used her personal Habeas Corpus (the first one granted in Brazil for these cases) to grow cannabis for everyone who needed it in the association. In addition to her husband Marcos, she had special help: from Meduza, the grower who helped organize the space and build cabinets for cultivation. In the midst of all this, it was necessary to create the awareness that Apepi was more than a way to help people – it was also a job.
From then on, Apepi grew, and got more associates. Today, the association has already obtained authorization for cultivation. But, for her, the people who associate have to be aware that they are there not only to buy the medicine, but to learn and contribute as well. It is a form of associative cultivation: each as an agent of its history, with autonomy, but acting on behalf of a group.
Fighters also cry
“We cry a lot. But, at Apepi, we have a network of wonderful women. We see that each mother and father has their time of acceptance. I say of the parents who stay, because there is a very large number of abandonments, there are women who go alone because the husband cannot stand it. I was in that time a bit of a mourning, because you expect a child and another child comes. ”
For Margarete, it is necessary to deconstruct the image of mothers of special children as strong warriors, who are not shaken by anything. In the association, there is a great work of welcoming families, so that everyone feels supported. But everyone goes through a painful process, which often comes before the fight – a human process, which needs to be handled with delicacy and sensitivity.
In addition to accepting that children need help, it is necessary to accept cannabis as help. In a prohibitionist context, unfortunately not all parents and relatives are free from prejudice against the substance. “Unlike other mothers, I thought ‘oh, how cool, I hope that cannabis can do something to make me take Sofia’s strongest drugs.’ I think that this way of dealing with cannabis, always in a way so calmly, it made me able to help people who don’t accept it so well.”
For a more feminine (and feminist) activism
Another point of acceptance was that of the cannabis scene with her participation. Margarete says that, in 2014, when she started to fit into this context, she was received with open arms – but in an environment exclusively dominated by men. “It was certainly a very macho and very closed environment, it is very crazy, because like this, it was a big boys club, it only had men. Several times I retrieve the photos and there is only me as a woman, and that was it. I met these boys and, although they were an incredible reference for me, after a while I couldn’t live with them, I couldn’t build my activism there”.
The association ended up becoming a completely new and different space, where the mothers got the space and created a much more feminine protagonism within the fight. “It turned out that I focused much more on Apepi, with many mothers, many women. At first I was just a mother of a child with epilepsy, and today we have people of all ages, parents and other family members as well.”
The ideal regulation
Margarete says that since she took Apepi and activism as a job, she has helped hundreds of women and families. She went to Brasilia, made politics, took his cause to cannabis marches, and helped spread the idea of fairer regulation across the country that would allow medical cannabis users to do this without fear of ending up in prison. For her, it is not only necessary: recreational use also needs to be decriminalized.
There are two types of regulation that it takes as a model: that of Uruguay and that of Colombia. In Uruguay, all citizens can purchase a quota of cannabis at pharmacies and dispensaries, whatever the purpose of use. In Colombia, however, regulation is more focused on medical use: even in recent years, the country has gained international attention for its policies to promote the medical cannabis market, which seeks mainly to reduce its problems with drug trafficking.
Talking to Margarete Brito was an incredible experience: for us, she is a symbol of women’s battle in the cannabis field; and, after all, altruism. We love to learn more about the story of this wonderful woman, who left her profession to create a support network that is already a national reference – and has already achieved many advances in a few years. Do you want to continue following this trajectory?