Brazil’s new plan to deal with drugs

. Feb 08, 2019
A committee of legal scholars and health professionals has come up with a new proposal on how to deal with drugs. But a conservative Congress could be a massive hurdle.

Police raids, arrests, and deaths. For years that has been the extent of Brazil’s policy on drugs. The strategy has not only utterly failed — as drug trafficking and consumption only increasing — but it has also overburdened Brazil’s legal system. Currently, one-third of Brazilian arrests are drug-related — in Paraná, a state bordering Paraguay which is a notorious drug route, the rate spikes to 59 percent.

Last year, however, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia appointed a committee of legal scholars and health experts to revise Brazil’s 13-year-old Drugs Act. The committee has presented its report — which promises to spark controversy in one of the most conservative legislatures on record.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the core of the report is a proposal to decriminalize the use of drugs (even though sale would remain illegal). And for that to happen, the committee wants a threshold for personal use to be written in law: 10 doses. Until the national health agency regulates what consists of a dose for each drug, the group of scholars suggests quantities for eight common drugs:</span></p> <ul> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cannabis</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: 1 gram;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Cocaine: 1 gram;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Crack cocaine: 0.5 gram;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Heroin: 0.5 gram;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">LSD: 1 tab;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">MDMA/Ecstasy: 1 pill;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Crystal meth: 1 gram;</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Poppers (alkyl nitrites): 0.01 liter</span></li> </ul> <h2>Brazil&#8217;s current law on drugs</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Signed by </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">former President Lula</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in 2006, the current </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">legal</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> framework was treated as a game-changer, dealing with the drug problem as a health issue, not only a police affair. While possessing drugs for personal use remained a crime, it was not punishable with incarceration, but rather alternative measures, such as rehabilitation treatment and social work.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But despite the law&#8217;s symbolism, it offers no objective criteria to distinguish users and dealers. &#8220;To determine who is a criminal, prosecutors must trace the defendant&#8217;s entire life story so the Justice system can have certainty when having a verdict,&#8221; says state judge Joaquim Domingos. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But that&#8217;s not what happens in real life. Since the law was passed, Brazil’s prison population has increased by 339 percent.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The law increased the minimum jail time for trafficking from three to five years. And the subjective ways in which the legal system operates are heavily influenced by structural racism. White, wealthy defendants tend to be considered users — while black men from peripheral areas are commonly tagged as dealers. While black and mixed-race people represent 55 percent of the overall population, they account for 64 percent of prison inmates. And, unlike what Judge Domingos says, most people arrested as drug dealers didn&#8217;t have any priors.</span></p> <h2>Public perception is changing</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most Brazilians are against legalizing drugs, with two-thirds of adults saying that smoking cannabis should remain forbidden by law, according to Datafolha, Brazil’s most renowned polling institute. However, support for decriminalization has gained support.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2011, Brazil’s former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso took part in a documentary about the war on drugs. “Breaking the Taboo” explored the conclusion of the Global Commission on Drug Policy that liberalization is the best approach in dealing with drug policy.</span></p> <p><iframe title="Breaking the Taboo - Official Trailer" width="1200" height="675" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">

Read the full story NOW!

The Brazilian Report

We are an in-depth content platform about Brazil, made by Brazilians and destined to foreign audiences.

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at