In Brazil, smoking Marijuana is seen by the majority as no different to shooting up heroin or snorting cocaine, they have a very different attitude to most European counties, so smoking Marijuana in a public place is going to attract lots of attention and get you into more trouble that you want or need.
The new drug laws in Brazil are not a liberalisation, despite being portrayed as such in some section of the media, possession for personal use is still very much a crime, although nowadays you are far more likely to be sent on a drugs prevention course than to prison.
Previously, small-time drug possessors faced between six months and two years in prison, but under the new law, they face only one or more of the following: treatment, community service, fines, or suspension of their drivers’ licenses. (If you fail to accept treatment, carry out your community service or don’t pay your fine, you could still go to jail for between 6 to 24 months)
Trafficking in drugs will get you a very long time in prison, under the new laws you will receive between 5 to 15 years in prison for supplying drugs or between 8 and 20 years if your crime is deemed to be “narcotrafficking capitalist”.
It is difficult to judge whether the new laws are really saying, drug users should not be a police problem but a social and or medical problem, or if it has been done to relieve some of the pressure on Brazil’s overcrowded prison system, with up to 1/3 less people being sent to jail.
Either way, Brazil’s new law has been a long time coming. First introduced by Congressman Murad in 1991, the bill took five years to pass the lower house and another five years to pass the Senate. It then languished for another five years before the Lula government got around to signing it.
Now, Brazil has taken a half-step forward. The question now is how the new law will be implemented and whether it will serve as a stepping stone to an even more progressive drug policy or an obstacle to an even more progressive drug policy.