Ex-Justice Ministers Call for Drug Decriminalization in Brazil

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Seven former Brazilian justice ministers have declared their support for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use, mirroring a regional shift in thinking on drug policy that the Brazilian government has so far resisted.

The letter signed by the ex-ministers affirms their view that repressive laws against drug possession for personal use are unconstitutional, and that “each citizen has the freedom to construct his own way of life provided that he respects the space of others.”

The former ministers voiced their position the day before the House of Representatives was set to vote on the modification of existing drug laws. The vote was postponed because of disagreement on measures including the forced hospitalization of addicts and the creation of a drug user database, reported Jornal do Brasil.

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The debate on drug policy in Latin America has recently been moving away from a repressive approach that emphasizes law enforcement. The presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico have led the way in calling for a paradigm shift on drug policy and have requested renewed debate at a global level. The government of Uruguay, meanwhile, is currently promoting legislation that would legalize the consumption of cannabis.

While some Brazilian states have tried novel approaches in terms of drug policy — including the mandatory hospitalization of crack addicts — overall Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has remained staunchly opposed to any form of legalization. This position which is unlikely to change soon despite the intervention of the seven political heavyweights.

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