Brazil Supreme Court Judge: Legalize Drugs to Take Power From Gangs

Drug War, World News

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice recommends the legalization of marijuana and cocaine to remove power from the drug gangs causing a wave of violence in Brazil.

Justice Roberto Barroso, a Yale graduate and constitutional law professor, said 50 years of war against drugs had failed miserably, clogging jails with small-time dealers and fueling a violent gang battle for control of the lucrative trade, reported Reuters.

Bassoro sees the drug problem as a power of drug gangs problem rather than impact on consumers as the U.S. authorities choose to view the problem.

“Unlike the United States and Europe where the problem lies in the impact drugs have on consumers, in Brazil the problem lies in the power drug traffickers have over poor communities,” Barroso said.

“I can assure you it is only a matter of time. Either we legalize marijuana now or we do it in the future after we have spent billions and incarcerated thousands.”

This new approach from the Supreme Court judge is a reflection of the failings of 50 years of a failed “drug war” and the results of that war, violence in the overcrowded prisons and poorer areas of the country.

A New Year’s day prison massacre in the jungle city of Manaus where inmates from a drug gang decapitated dozens of rivals and left 56 dead sparked jail riots across the country, reported Al Jazeera.

This week, a strike by police in Brazil’s southeastern state of Espirito Santo unleashed a crime frenzy that killed more than 120 people – many of them linked to criminal gangs, reported Reuters.

Regulating the production, sale and consumption of marijuana – as in Brazil’s smaller neighbor Uruguay – could be first step in curbing crime in one of the world’s most dangerous countries, Barroso said.

“If that works we can easily move to legalize cocaine,” said Barroso, who as a lawyer pushed to legalize stem cell research and gay rights. “If you want to break the power of traffickers you need to consider legalizing cocaine.”

Barroso is one of three judges on the 11-member Supreme Court who recently voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana in a case that he hopes could eventually pave the way for legalization.

A rising number of Brazil’s conservative and evangelical politicians are vowing a tougher stance on drugs, however.

Drug use has skyrocketed in Brazil, the second-biggest consumer of cocaine after the United States, according to the United Nations.

The conservative approach has proven not just ineffective, but counter-effective. It has produced massive increases in prison populations and poverty as well as increased violence.

Since the approval in 2006 of a law that gives judges discretion to determine who is a drug consumer and who is a dealer, the prison population has surged 55 percent. With more than 622,000 inmates, it is the fourth largest in the world.

“I’m not sure if my proposal for legalization will work, but I’m sure that the war on drugs has not,” Barroso said. “We cannot just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.”

While Bassaro hopes to take a new positive approach, he was only 1 of 3 judges out of 11 that voted to decriminalize marijuana. The other 8 want to continue a system that has proven itself ineffective in making a positive impact on the country and its citizens.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)

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