Brazilian Congress and Ministry of Justice Debate Marijuana Legalization
By Dialogo April 29, 2013
The Brazilian Ministry of Justice and National Congress have been promoting several debates on decontrolling the use of medical marijuana, as well as legalizing it for users who are currently subject to jail time. The idea is basically to treat the user as a public health case and replace jail sentences with administrative fines and mandatory hospitalization for health treatment, which already occurs in Spain, Holland, Portugal, and parts of the United States.
Uruguay vetoed the bill to legalize the commercialization of the drug after a poll showed that 64% of the respondents were against it.
It is a very controversial matter with divided opinions, especially in Brazil, which ranks second in the world for cocaine and crack consumption. More recent studies performed by the University of São Paulo indicated that 1.5 million citizens use marijuana, and approximately 8 million had tried the drug.
The biggest fear of decriminalization is that it would result in an increased demand for a stronger drug from marijuana addicts, causing an unprecedented epidemic, such as what occurs with crack, according to Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha. In addition, Brazil’s proximity to the world’s largest cocaine and marijuana producers coupled with a strong presence of criminal organizations focused on drug trafficking reinforces this trend, eliminating the possibility that legalization would reduce drug trafficking and associated crime, as some government officials believe.
The current situation is discouraging. The Institute of Applied Economic Research estimated that 56.12% of homicides in Brazil are directly linked to drug trafficking rendering the policies for combating narcotics inefficient. Some specialists who are openly against the state’s initiative, claim that policies from developed countries cannot be adopted in Brazil due to the lack of infrastructure, clearly exemplified by the penitentiary and juvenile detention facilities in the country. Add to this the basic public health services, which barely meet the needs of the population and the main problem of which is the lack of hospital rooms.
*André Luís Woloszyn, Strategic Intelligence Analyst