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World News

Catholics divided over decriminalising marijuana in Brazil

by Heather Preston

A Supreme Court consideration to decriminalise marijuana possession in Brazil is causing division amongst Catholics there.

The head of the Brazilian Union of Catholic Jurists, Lawyer Miguel Vidigal says marijuana shouldn’t be decriminalised because it is a gateway drug to harder substances.

“Drugs are an evil in itself. They cause health, psychological, and spiritual damages,” he told Crux.

Meanwhile Father Valdir Joao Silveira, former head of the Brazilian bishops' prison ministry argues the criminalising of all drugs has led to a crisis of “mass imprisonment and violence.”  After a law on the criminalisation of drugs was imposed in Brazil in 2006 the prison population is said to have increased significantly.

Proceedings on decriminalising cannabis began in Brazil in 2011, after a public defender appealed the conviction of a prisoner found in possession of three grams of marijuana inside his cell.

Currently, possessing drugs for personal consumption does not carry a prison sentence in Brazil, but there is a legal grey area when it comes to distinguishing personal use from possession with intent to sell.

The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court is currently deciding whether it is constitutional to criminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use in the country.

To date, five justices have voted in favour of decriminalisation and three have voted against it.

The court has yet to decide what amounts would define personal possession.


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