Brazil between decriminalization and mandatory minimum sentencing

Marijuana substitution for crack addicts in Bogota, Colombia

Brazil between decriminalization and mandatory minimum sentencing

Seven justice ministers who served during the 1995-2003 government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the 2003-2011 administration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a letter on Tuesday to Federal Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, advocating the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

The former ministers pointed out to the failure of the criminalization of drug users, declaring “each citizen has the freedom to build his own mode of life provided that he respects the space of others…Treating the consumer as a citizen and offering him treatment structure by means of a policy of damage reduction is more appropriate than stigmatizing him as a criminal.”

The signers cite successful experiences in countries such as Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Italy and Portugal, which adopted decriminalization of drug possession for one’s own personal use as an “effective way” of fighting drug trafficking. The letter was released as the lower house of Congress is preparing to vote on a reform of the Drug Law that includes the possible compulsory treatment for drug users and increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for drug-related offenses from five to eight years.

Ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso is himself a strong advocate of drug policy reform and one of the founders of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Marijuana substitution for crack addicts in Bogota, Colombia

The city of Bogota is planning a system of “controlled consumption centers,” where addicts could be weaned off more hard-core drugs, such as heroin or crack, and slowly introduced to pot.

Although Colombia has successfully cracked down on its drug export business, many native Colombians are addicted to drugs, including the highly addictive cocaine derivative known as basuco, Agence France-Presse previously reported.

Basuco is smokable cocaine that is easily accessible and often gives users a euphoric high. It can also cause serious damage to vital organs.

Because of its continued prevalence, as well as its toxicity, basuco will be one of the drugs targeted by Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro’s planned treatment centers, according to BBC Mundo. The treatment centers are part of a larger movement in Colombia to classify drug addiction as an issue of public health rather than crime, AFP noted in 2012.

“We’re in the process of looking for alternatives to a policy that, over 30 years, has caused deaths, has caused problems and has caused economic and public health difficulties and social problems in Colombia,” Rubén Ramírez, director of the Center for Study and Analysis in Coexistence and Public Safety, told BBC Mundo. “And among the ideas is one to do a pilot study on the substitution of [marijuana for cocaine].”

The initiative could be implemented within two months and would be used to study the effectiveness of marijuana on reducing and alleviating withdrawal symptoms in addicts who want to kick their cocaine or heroine habits.

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Author: Jeffrey Dhywood

Jeffrey Dhywood is a European-born investigative writer, lecturer and public speaker, drug policy analyst, author of "World War D – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization" Jeffrey Dhywood holds a degree in Mathematical logics (Model Theory). He lived 20 years in the US and is currently living in Latin America. He is also very familiar with Asia, which gives him a good grasp of the global dimension of the War on Drugs, and its global failure. His academic background and his direct experience allows him to bring common sense and sanity to an issue often mired in confusion, misconceptions and preconceptions.

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