The use and possession of drugs would no longer be a crime under a Brazilian Health Ministry proposal to change that country's drug laws, the Folha de Sao Paolo reported on April 14, according to a translation published on Narco News this week. "The rigor of the current criminal laws on drugs causes unfavorable conditions for access to health programs and participation in programs by drug users, having established use as 'prohibited,' and suggesting that users hide," the Health Ministry concluded in a document presenting the proposed change. The proposal will be debated within the government of President Lula da Silva, where it will face possible competing measures, before da Silva's Workers' Party forwards its final proposal to the Brazilian congress. Lula must forward a proposal to reform the nation's drug strategy to the congress next month.
Under the Health Ministry proposal, drug users would neither be imprisoned nor subjected to forced drug treatment, or "therapeutic justice," as it is known in Brazil. But the prohibition on the sale of drugs would remain. Still, the proposal is far-reaching and even visionary in that it sets as a goal to formulate "policies that can deconstruct the common view that every drug user is a sick person who requires intervention, prison or acquittal."
"This is the more pragmatic and productive alternative, compared to possible punishment for unaccepted behaviors. In this sense, it is fundamental that we work to adopt a non-criminal policy toward users, that fights for promotion of holistic attention to them," Health Ministry spokesman Paulo Macedo told the Folha.
The Health Ministry proposal is only the latest pressure being exerted on Lula, not only from within his government but also from below. See Narco News (http://www.narconews.com) for more extensive coverage of Brazil, including English translations of selected Brazilian press accounts of this ongoing story.