By Felipe Neis Araujo
Unlike some of its neighbouring countries, the Brazilian government has continued to block efforts to decriminalise cannabis. In 2017, when Argentina legalized medical cannabis, the right-wing Brazilian president Michel Temer censored the publication of a study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) which questioned the very existence of a drug addiction epidemic; the government was accused of suppressing data that would call its war on drugs into question.
The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to invest in the war on drugs since he began campaigning for the presidency in 2018, a vow he renewed upon election. In 2019, during his first year in office, Bolsonaro signed a decree establishing his own kind of drug policy. The new piece of legislation excludes previously adopted harm reduction approaches, relying on the enforcement of coercive abstinence. In practice, this channels taxpayers’ money into abstinence-only institutions and removes support for people who use drugs.
The Brazilian government also altered the composition of the National Drug Policy Council, excluding civil society representatives; 13 seats were removed, including those held by the Order of Attorneys of Brazil; the Federal Council of Social Work; the Federal Council of Medicine; the Federal Council of Nursing; the Federal Council of Psychology; the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science; and the National Student Union. The seats previously occupied by an anthropologist, a journalist, and an artist were also extinct.