South America has quickly become the world’s fastest changing region for drug policy reform. Countries that include Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, and most recently Peru, have recognized the value in approaching cannabis and other illicit substances with a decriminalized, healthcare-related approach.
Now, South America’s largest country is beginning to take a new look at drug policy.
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso is a Yale graduate and constitutional law professor. He went on record last week saying that Brazil’s 50-year drug war has failed miserably. The judge added that the failure has constituted a clogged jail system that’s filled with small time dealers.
In an interview with Reuters, Justice Barroso commented that “unlike the United States and Europe where the problem lies in the impact drugs have on consumers, in Brazil, the problem lies in the power drug traffickers have over poor communities.”
The justice went on to add that it is only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized. He said they can do it now or in the future after Brazil has spent billions of dollars and incarcerated thousands of people. It should be noted that Brazil is a deeply conservative country and a decree of this nature from anyone in the justice system, let alone their Supreme Court, is quite rare.
Barroso believes that regulating the production, sale, and consumption of cannabis could be the first step in taking money and power away from the violent gangs. He cited Brazil’s neighbor Uruguay as a perfect example.
The justice then went further to add that if legalizing marijuana works for Brazil, the next step would be to legalize cocaine, a much larger problem in the South American country.
Barroso is one of three judges who voted in favor of the initiative. The challenge is that he is on a panel with 10 other judges; Barroso hopes to eventually pave the way for legalization.
According to Brazilian Justice Ministry data, currently, one in four male inmates have been convicted for drug trafficking of some kind. Barroso concluded poignantly saying “I’m not sure if my proposal for legalization will work, but I’m sure that the war on drugs has not.”
South America is a part of the world where drugs and violent organized crime have taken center stage for the last several decades. It’s refreshing to see so many countries taking control of the problem with a different approach. The famous saying rings true, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
Photo Courtesy of Ricardo