Brazil: Reject bill that entrenches failed drug policy

Joel Santos - Pexels


Brazil: Reject bill that entrenches failed drug policy

25 April 2024

The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on an amendment to article 5 of Brazil’s Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy, that would restrict that right by criminalizing the possession of illegal drugs regardless of quantity. If approved, the proposed amendment would be put to a second vote at the full Senate and then go to the Chamber of Deputies.

“Decades of drug policy failure in Brazil should make clear that criminal law is simply ineffective to address the harmful use of drugs and leads to serious human rights abuses,” said Andrea Carvalho, Brazil researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of cementing a failed policy in the constitution, lawmakers should follow the example of many other countries by decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use and developing effective health strategies to prevent and respond to problematic substance use.”

Current law already criminalizes drug possession for personal use, but introducing this language in the constitution would make it much harder to pursue much-needed drug policy reforms in Brazil, Human Rights Watch said.

The president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, has made clear that the constitutional amendment is a pre-emptive attempt by lawmakers to counter an upcoming Supreme Court decision that could improve drug policy, Human Rights Watch said. Pacheco introduced the proposal on September 14, 2023, a few weeks after the Supreme Court resumed its review of a case that will decide whether current Brazilian law violates the Constitution. Upon introducing the bill, Pacheco stressed that it is Congress that “defines the laws in the country” and other branches of government should recognize that authority.