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  • Police search youths for weapons and drugs while on patrol in the Nordeste de Amaralina slum complex in Salvador, Bahia State.

    Police search youths for weapons and drugs while on patrol in the Nordeste de Amaralina slum complex in Salvador, Bahia State. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 February 2017

The top judge said that the country needed a better approach to the failed war on drugs.

One of Brazil’s Supreme Court judges criticized the country’s drug policy Friday and advocated for the legalization of marijuana to help battle widespread violence, crime and problems with criminal gangs, which has taken a huge human and economic toll on the country.

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“Either we legalize marijuana now or we do it in the future after we have spent billions and incarcerated thousands,” said Justice Roberto Barroso in Brasilia on Friday.

“Unlike the United States and Europe where the problem lies in the impact drugs have on consumers, in Brazil the problem lies in the power drug traffickers have over poor communities,” Barroso continued.

The judge said that Brazil could learn a lesson from neighboring Uruguay, which in 2013 became the world’s first country to fully legalize the sale and production of marijuana.

“If that works we can easily work to legalize cocaine … If you want to break the power of traffickers you need to consider legalizing cocaine,” the judge said.  

“I'm not sure if my proposal for legalization will work, but I'm sure that the war on drugs has not … We cannot just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” he continued. The call for legalization comes as Latin America’s biggest country faces problems with prison riots, insecurity and violence on top of the country’s worst economic crisis in history.

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Brazil has been hit by a wave of prison riots, fueled by rival gangs in overcrowded prisons. More than 100 people have been killed in prisons in 2017 alone.

Since a 2006 law gave judges the power to determine who is a drug dealer, the country’s prison population has risen by 55 percent to become the fourth largest in the world.

As a conservative country, other Brazilian politicians have called for a harder approach to the war on drugs to attempt to cut off a seemingly endless supply of drugs entering the country. Brazil is one of the world’s largest consumers of cocaine and an important transit country for drugs being exported to European markets. 

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