SAO PAULO – Hundreds of people marched on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, in favor of the legalization of cannabis and to call for the decriminalization of the drug for personal use.
The Supreme Court had been due to meet on Wednesday to continue its analysis into whether to decriminalize personal use of substances that are considered illicit, but presiding judge Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli pulled the item from this week’s agenda. No new date has been set for the debate to be reopened.
The country’s top court began debating the issue in 2015, but the session was suspended indefinitely with three out of the 11 sitting judges having voted in favor of decriminalizing the possession and personal use of drugs.
The issue under consideration is the constitutionality of article 28 of the Drug Laws, which imposes penalties for those who “acquire, keep, store, transport or carry” illegal drugs for personal consumption.
Under the theme “For a free and alive people, legalize,” hundreds of Brazilians rallied on the Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo to pressure the Supreme Court to decriminalize personal consumption.
Marcelo Gutierrez, a 33-year-old medical professional, told EFE that the rally was very important because cannabis, in his opinion, is “a highly stigmatized substance” but which has “a lot of potential to treat many medical conditions.”
“It’s important to investigate and carry out clinical trials to gain a better understanding because the active components of cannabis are very useful in treating illnesses,” Gutierrez said. “But we must investigate, and how do we investigate? Once it is legal.”
Lauro Pontes, a 42-year-old psychologist and coordinator of AbraCannabis, agreed that the substance has untapped therapeutic and medical potential for certain patients.
“To be able to use it in medical contexts, it must be decriminalized; that is why we are supporting the march in Sao Paulo, just as we were in the rally in Rio de Janeiro,” Pontes told EFE.
According to data provided by the Justice ministry, 26.5 percent of the male prison population and 62 percent of female inmates are serving time in prison on drug charges.
From 2006, when the Law on Drugs was published, until 2017, Brazil’s prison population grew over 80 percent to around 730,000 people, the third largest in the world.
Prisoners charged with drug offenses jumped from 47,000 in 2007 to over 200,000 in 2016.