By Luís Roberto Barroso

The war raging in Rocinha, Latin America’s largest favela, has already been lost. Rooted in a dispute between gangs for control of drug trafficking, it has disrupted the daily life of the community in Rio de Janeiro since mid-September. With the sound of shots coming from all sides, schools and shops are constantly forced to close. Recently, a stray bullet killed a Spanish tourist. The war is not the only thing being lost.

For decades, Brazil has had the same drug policy approach. Police, weapons and numerous arrests. It does not take an expert to conclude the obvious: the strategy has failed. Drug trafficking and consumption have only increased. Einstein is credited with a saying – though apparently it is not his – that applies well to the case: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In a case still before the Brazilian supreme court, I voted for decriminalising the possession of marijuana for private consumption. The case has been suspended and no date has been set for its resumption. I also proposed to open a broad debate on the legalisation of marijuana, to begin with – and then, if successful, cocaine. The subject is extremely delicate, and the outcome hinges on a decision from the legislature.

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Thumbnail: CC Tânia Rêgo