By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Supreme Court in brazil is expected to vote this month if the country will decriminalize the possession of drugs and the cultivation of plants for personal use. The Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether the prohibition is unconstitutional. The Court’s decision would also establish who would be considered a user and who could be seen as a drug trafficker.
“It is widely thought that the prohibition [of the possession of drugs for individual use] is unconstitutional due to the principles of liberty and privacy, since a person can not be constrained by the State in an action which if committed will only harm the individual himself,” said Luciana Boiteux, coordinator of the Drug Policies Research Group at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro to Agencia Brasil.
According to those who favor the decriminalization of drugs in the country, Brazil would be taking a step forward, joining a group of nations which have already taken drug possession for individual use away from police jurisdiction. For those who support the measure one of the biggest gains in decriminalizing drugs would be the increased access chemical dependents would have in getting help to fight their addiction without being stigmatized as criminals.
Today’s law, passed in 2006, leaves it up to the individual judge to decide if the amount found on the individual is for personal use or for commercial purposes. The decisions, say those who want the decriminalization, are very often based on the individual’s social and economic status.
“In other words, who is poor is a drug trafficker, while those who are rich are users,” says Pedro Abramovay, Latin America’s director at Open Society Foundation, a non-governmental organization working for human rights around the world.
Last week, Brazil’s Justice Minister, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, admitted that the country had ‘legal breaches’ when it came to identifying drug traffickers from drug users. “We have lots of people who are users but who are arrested and put in prison with members of criminal organizations. They enter [prison] as users and come out as a drug traffickers,” Cardozo was quoted as saying by Agencia Brasil.