• Brazil

    Overview of drug laws and legislative trends in Brazil.


    Brazil is debating reform of current drug legislation. Changes to the Criminal Code are being discussed in Senate and the debate includes new articles on drugs. Several legal bills to reform the existing drug law are waiting to be reviewed. The most polemic debate is about the application of forced treatment on crack users. Under the government of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil is increasingly becoming a regional reference on security issues. The country is taking on regional tasks in the monitoring and tracking of coca crops and cocaine trafficking, using high level technology and involving both police and military forces to play a predominant role.


    Drug Law 11.343 has been in place in Brazil since August 23, 2006. The law introduced important changes in the country’s drug legislation as it depenalized consumption and rejected incarceration for drug users, even in cases involving repeat offenses. Article 28 of the law includes alternative measures for punishment. While the 2006 law broadened the legal difference between consumers and traffickers – with the second group facing prison time – it does not strictly define who falls into each of these categories. (See A lei na prática)

    For the latest news on drug law reform in Brazil click here.

  • Ten years of drug policy failure in Brazil

    Under the 2006 law many users have simply been prosecuted as traffickers
    Human Rights Watch (US)
    Sunday, August 28, 2016

    Ten years ago this week, Brazil passed a law intended to distinguish dangerous drug traffickers from simple drug users. By replacing jail sentences for users of any illegal drug with penalties such as community service, and increasing penalties for drug trafficking, the new law aimed to reduce the number of people detained for drug possession and weaken criminal organizations that smuggle and sell drugs. None of that happened. In 2005, 9 percent of those in prison were detained on drug charges -- now it’s 28 percent, and among women, 64 percent.

  • What can be learned from Brazil’s “pacification” police model?

    After initial success, challenges remain
    Elizabeth Leeds
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
    Friday, March 11, 2016

    When national and local public safety personnel in Latin America want to turn away from “mano dura” approaches to the problem of alarmingly high rates of crime and violence, they frequently look to examples of apparently successful violence reduction strategies from other countries in the region. A example of this process is the effort to expand the Police Pacification Units (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora, UPPs), established in Rio de Janeiro in 2008 and inspired in part by violence reduction strategies in Medellín, to new communities.

  • The interplay between drug-use behaviors, settings, and access to care

    A qualitative study exploring attitudes and experiences of crack cocaine users in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil
    Noa Krawczyk, Carlos Linhares Veloso Filho and Francisco I. Bastos
    Harm Reduction Journal 2015, 12:24
    August 2015

    Despite the growing attention surrounding crack cocaine use in Brazil, little is understood about crack users’ histories, use patterns and the interplay of drug-use behaviors, settings, and access/barriers to care. Qualitative studies seldom cross-compare findings regarding people who use crack from different settings. This study aims to explore the insights of regular crack users in two major Brazilian cities and to examine how social and contextual factors, including stigma and marginalization, influence initial use and a range of health and social issues.

    application-pdfView the article (PDF - outside link)

  • Drug policy and incarceration in São Paulo, Brazil

    Juliana de Oliveira Carlos
    IDPC Briefing Paper
    June 2015

    This briefing paper analyses the impact of drug policy on incarceration in São Paulo (Brazil), based on information collected among 1,040 people caught for having committed a drug-related offence (i.e. arrested in “flagrante delicto”) between 1st April and 30st June 2011. The objective of the research was to use empirical data on those caught in the criminal justice system for drug traffic to demonstrate the fragile distinctions between drug users and traffickers, provide information on how police officers deal with drug-related offences, and analyse how the judiciary effectively responds to these crimes (at least in the initial phases of the criminal justice process).

    application-pdfDownload the briefing (PDF)

  • Crack cocaine users: New data from Brazil

    Vera Da Ros (REDUC - Brazil)
    IDPC blog
    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Last September, the Brazilian Ministries of Health and Justice presented data of two key surveys – “Estimated number of crack and similar drug users in capital cities of the country" and "Profile of crack and similar drug users – Brazil". Both surveys were headed by Francisco Bastos from FIOCRUZ, a very respected and traditional Foundation in Brazil.

  • UN concerned by arbitrary arrests in Brazil

    CBS News (US)
    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention voiced concern about the rising number of arbitrary arrests in Brazil, which has one of the highest prison populations in the world with around 550,000 persons, 217,000 (about 40%) of whom are in pre-trial detention. They also expressed serious concerns regarding the arrests and compulsory confinement of drug addicts due to forthcoming major events such as the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. (See: Prison overcrowding in Brazil)

  • Drugs and prisons in Brazil

    In Brazil, possession of drugs for personal consumption is punished with educational measures and community service, not prison. In this video, a young man tells of the disparity in sentencing between the wealthy and the poor.

  • Drug Laws and Prisons in Brazil

    Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America

    The number of people imprisoned for drug offenses in Brazil has increased over the last 20 years, but this has not affected the availability or consumption of drugs. The study also shows that those who are locked up for drug offenses are mainly small-scale dealers who represent the lowest links in drug distribution operations, and not the large-scale wholesale traffickers who dominate the country’s illicit drug trafficking trade.

    Download the chapter on Brazil (PDF)

  • Crack untamed: treat users, kill the market

    Flávia Resende
    Comunidad segura
    May 7, 2010

    Brazil will soon have a special police task force targeting crack-cocaine. Meanwhile, the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais proposes its own drug fighting alternatives to address crack on the domestic front. Crack is a risk factor in urban violence, contributing to homicides and robberies in Brazilian cities. However, it is not the chemistry involved in crack, but the crack market that is increasing the crime and violence. How can rising crack use effectively be addressed, other than through mere suppression?


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