Decriminalization of recreational cannabis use

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

"One fine day, the police discovered an authentic gang of elderly men and women who increased their earnings by selling marijuana, and only marijuana, no cocaine or heavier stuff."

Opinions are divided. Supporters of the measure claim that decriminalizing drug use can help fight trafficking and also police corruption. They recall the historic ineffectiveness of Prohibition in the United States, during the 1920s, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, and ended up increasing organized crime, such as that led by the famous gangster Al Capone.

Those against claim that the decriminalization of a drug, such as marijuana, will pave the way for the use and trafficking of harder drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and others, which would strengthen trafficking.

There are also those who say that the issue should be debated in the National Congress, and not in the STF.

In Europe, consideration of marijuana use and cultivation varies greatly from country to country. But there are common trends and groupings of countries by regions. In general, the dominant trend, even in countries where the recreational use of marijuana is prohibited, is to criminalize trafficking and be more tolerant towards the user. Police action against the user tends to be restricted to cases of dangerous conduct, such as drug-driving, or considered turbulent in public.

With legal and tolerance or strict variants, this is the dominant trend in countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Ireland. In some of these countries, such as the Netherlands, the purchase and sale of small amounts of marijuana is allowed in specialized and supervised places.

In countries like Greece, Norway, Sweden and Finland, the rigor in applying the law prohibiting the use of marijuana is greater. In former Eastern Europe, countries are divided: there are the most liberal ones, such as the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland and Estonia, and the least tolerant ones, such as Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia.

The situations described above may change, with the general rise of far-right political forces, usually more conservative.

recreational use

In Germany, the current government is preparing legislation to, still in 2023, decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, its commercialization and individual cultivation in small quantities.

A curious event, recorded more than ten years ago in Berlin, well illustrates the contradictions and trends of this XNUMXst century. It is common to find retirees on the streets picking up soda and beer cans to increase their income, because the pension is very low in relation to the salary they earned on active duty.

One fine day, the police discovered an authentic gang of elderly men and women who increased their earnings by selling marijuana, and only marijuana, no cocaine or heavier stuff. Each and every one was in their seventies or just under. It was found that they were remnants of the revolutionary “1968 generation”. Inveterate consumers of marijuana, decided to increase their earnings by selling the surplus of what they grew.

More: the “capo” of the group, who firmly controlled the accounts, was the mother of one of them, who was already in her late 90s. Perplexed, the police and justice took an original attitude. They didn't prosecute or arrest the old ladies and old men, as long as they made a commitment to stop their booming business and go pick up cans like everyone else. So it was said, so it was done, and everyone lived happily ever after with this "happy end” worthy of a cinematic comedy.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo).

Comment originally made on Radio France.

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