top of page

Should Marijuana be Legalized in Brazil?

Cannabis in Brazil is illegal and criminalized, but possession and cultivation of personal amounts and for private use were de-penalized in 2006. Limited cannabis-based medicines were permitted as of 2017.

Calls for legalization are growing louder — and not just from pot heads. In February last year (2017), Luís Roberto Barroso became the fourth of Brazil’s eleven Supreme Court judges to support decriminalization. Medical researchers and families of cancer patients are pressuring Anvisa (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária), the Brazilian equivalent of the FDA, to legalize medical marijuana for chronic illnesses.

Still, 70% of Brazilians oppose legalization, according to research firm Paraná Pesquisas. Nevertheless, marijuana legislation has a lot to do with Brazil’s complicated social relations — a history that goes all the way back to the slave trade. As calls for racial equality advances, so do calls for its legalization.


In 1830's Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Council, was one of the first councils/country to prohibit bringing cannabis into the city, and punishing its use.

In 2006, anti-drug laws were expanded to include people caught with small amounts of drugs for personal use, instead of just those believed to be dealing or trafficking. The minimum jail time increased from three to five years and the minimum fine from $15 to $153. The maximum fine was increased to $475, almost double the monthly minimum wage.

This had drastic consequences on Brazil’s prisons: the incarcerated population grew by 170,000 between 2008 and 2014. Today, a third of inmates are serving sentences for drug trafficking.

Like a lot of laws in Brazil, the effects are not felt evenly.

Unlike Brazil, Canada is only the second country in the world and the first G7 nation to implement legislation to permit a nationwide marijuana market.

According to a Statistics Canada report, Canadians spend almost as much on the green as they do on the grape, consuming C$6.2 billion worth of marijuana in 2015—a relatively conservative estimate, the agency admitted, stating that actual consumption could “reasonably” be as low as half that amount, or as much as double. By comparison, Canadians spent C$7 billion on wine in 2015.

Which proves the hypothesis that if Marijuana goes legal it affects everyone and everything.

Attitudes regarding drug use — and social issues more broadly — are drawn along political lines. As well as conservative attitudes, which permeate modern Brazil, are less sympathetic towards marijuana use than liberal ones.

Antonio Geraldo da Silva, technical director of the Brazilian Association of Psychiatry, warns that cannabis consumption can cause irreparable psychiatric damage. “I am certain that the number of people with mental illnesses, which will increase with the presence of marijuana in the markets and with more access, will be enormous.

For Silva, the biggest danger would be adding one more substance to the list of things that humans consume that are bad for their health — just like tobacco, alcohol, and Coca Cola. Silva says he is unaware of Brazil’s disproportionate imprisonment of young, black men on trafficking charges.

Marijuana-related violence decreased slightly in Uruguay after its 2013 legalization, although experts admit that, as a country with little violence compared to its neighbors, it is an imperfect case study. Nevertheless, violence levels have also decreased in U.S. cities and states that have legalized the substance’s recreational use. Denver, for example, registered a 2.2% decrease in violent crime during Colorado’s first year of legalization.


bottom of page