Twenty five candidates, including advertising agencies and communication professionals from all across Brazil, signed up for a competition organized by Viva Rio to select the best idea for a campaign that could change the legislation on drug policies in the country. The winning proposal will be announced on May 28 and will receive a symbolic prize of R$20,000.

The goal of the campaign is to collect 1.3 million signatures to support a draft bill that will be submitted to the Brazilian Congress in March of 2013 to reform current drug legislation in the country, creating a more just and efficient policy.

Viva Rio's executive director Viva Rio, Rubem César Fernandes, explains that the biggest challenge for the candidates will be to find an appropriate way to address the general public.  “The language that is normally used to talk about drugs is very defensive and charged with negative ideas or complicated concepts. That is why we launched this competition and appealed to advertising agencies to help us think about a campaign.”

The main goal of the National Campaign for the Change in Drug Policies in Brazil is to decriminalize the drug user, ensuring a broad approach of the topic, not only in terms of security, but especially from a health perspective.  

Fernandes believes that the crux of this change involves making a distinction between criminal aspects and the issue of drug use. He explains that by taking the debate on drug use out of the criminal realm it will be possible to take this debate into schools, the healthcare system, churches and families.

"By differentiating organized crime from drug users, you make it possible to talk about ways to reduce consumption, find better ways to control these substances that are often mixed with all kinds of impurities, how to better care for people with addictions and how to create a more positive agenda", said Fernandes. 

The new draft bill is being designed by an expert team composed of federal elected representatives Alessandro Molon and Paulo Teixeira; the former secretary of legislative issues for the Ministry of Justice, Pedro Abramovay; Bahia's public defender, Daniel Nicory; law professor for the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Luciana Boiteux; executive director of the Brazilian Institute for Criminal Science (IBCCRIM), Cristiano Maronna, and the advisor to the supreme court judge of the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Cezar Peluso, Luiz Guilherme Paiva.

The draft bill will propose that drug use should be an administrative infraction and no longer a crime. It will also propose the implementation of a Multidisciplinary Council, similar to the one created in Portugal, where the user will be referred and assessed.
The campaign will be held in partnership with Rede Globo, AVAAZ, the Global Commission on Drug Policies, the National Association of Public Prosecutors, the Brazilian Commission on Drugs and Democracy and the Injustice Bank.

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