By Julia Bueno, psychologist and harm reduction worker at É de Lei Coexistence Center
Translation by Lucia Sestokas
It is 2020 and a pandemic arrives in the country, which already wasn’t doing well in its public health, nor in education, much less in the defense of human rights, and with a drug policy that increasingly becomes a pact of structural racism in our country.
In 2015, we saw the Supreme Federal Court (STF) start a debate that already had been proposed in 2011 by the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office on the decriminalization of drug possession, driven by the case of a man who was convicted for trafficking with the possession of only 3g of marijuana. This STF debate has been postponed ever since, and because of Brazil’s political conflicts it has been put aside. Since then, instead of moving towards a drug legislation that massively decreases the incarceration of black and peripheral population, we are creating even more unequal, cruel and racist laws, in which a white teenager can smoke marijuana from the balcony of his apartment. and a black teenager on the peripheral part of the city, even if he is not smoking marijuana, may be arrested or shot.
We saw some “advances” in the Brazilian drug debate in relation to medical marijuana, which is still nowhere near the ideal of guaranteeing freedom to plant and produce your own medication, taking into account that importing medical marijuana oil currently costs over R$1000 (approximately US$200). This brings a giant socioeconomic profile of who will have access to this medication, which can easily be produced at home, but is still considered a crime.
In 2019, hand in hand with a fascist cloud that came with the B17*, so desired and dreamed of in our nation, we also saw an increase in street policing, police violence in the peripheries, in addition to the exterminations that we have been counting in silence at the funk balls. A new drug legislation has also come, which imposes a new moment for mental health in the country, making therapeutic communities the only treatment option for people who use drugs, ignoring harm reduction.
We must ask ourselves what is the future we want for our country regarding the war on drugs, that increasingly shows to be, in fact, a war against certain people. It is necessary to make a stand responsibly and to articulate an open and comprehensive debate on this topic, instead of wanting to escape from structuring issues and just go viral on the internet with a shallow debate that gives voice only to those who already have (social and economic) freedom for smoking your flower in the comfort of your home.
It is important to understand, debate and defend the multiplicity and diversity that the drug debate imposes, and that means facing its inconsistencies and considering that, many times, we are moving towards individual freedom, only accessed by those who have economic and social power, in relation to marijuana use. We cannot ignore the extermination of the black and peripheral population, which differentiates people who use drugs from drug dealers by their skin color and by the place where they live, the misogyny that differentiates how users will be punished, and how drug use and legislation unfold over the LGBTI community. We cannot sum up our fight to a lit joint in the hand of a young white man with dreadlocks.
*B17 is an acronym used to designate Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters.