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Brazil’s Supreme Court decriminalizes possession of marijuana for personal use

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Brazil’s Supreme Court decriminalizes possession of marijuana for personal use
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Brazil’s Supreme Court decriminalizes possession of marijuana for personal use

2024-06-26 08:30 Last Updated At:08:40

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use, making the nation one of Latin America’s last to do so, in a move that could reduce its massive prison population.

With final votes cast on Tuesday, a majority of the justices on the 11-person court have voted in favor of decriminalization since deliberations began in 2015.

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FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use, making the nation one of Latin America’s last to do so, in a move that could reduce its massive prison population.

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - Supreme Court justices preside over a trial in Brasilia, Brazil, June 30, 2023. Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, moved toward decriminalizing possession of marijuana for personal use. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - Supreme Court justices preside over a trial in Brasilia, Brazil, June 30, 2023. Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, moved toward decriminalizing possession of marijuana for personal use. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Demonstrators carry a giant inflatable joint during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators carry a giant inflatable joint during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads in Portuguese, "Legalize now," during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads in Portuguese, "Legalize now," during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

The justices must still determine the maximum quantity of marijuana that would be characterized as being for personal use and when the ruling will enter into effect. That is expected to finish as early as Wednesday.

All the justices who have voted in favor said decriminalization should be restricted to possession of marijuana in amounts suitable for personal use. Selling drugs will remain illegal.

In 2006, Brazil’s Congress approved a law that sought to punish individuals caught carrying small amounts of drugs, including marijuana, with alternative penalties such as community service. Experts say the law was too vague and didn’t establish a specific quantity to help law enforcement and judges differentiate personal use from drug trafficking.

Police continued to arrest people carrying small quantities of drugs on trafficking charges and Brazil’s prison population continued to swell.

“The majority of pre-trial detainees and those convicted of drug trafficking in Brazil are first-time offenders, who carried small amounts of illicit substance with them, caught in routine police operations, unarmed and with no evidence of any relationship with organized crime,” said Ilona Szabó, president of Igarapé Institute, a think tank focusing on public security.

Congress has responded to the top court’s ongoing deliberations by separately advancing a proposal to tighten drug legislation, which would complicate the legal picture surrounding marijuana possession.

In April, the Senate approved a constitutional amendment criminalizing possession of any quantity of illicit substance. The lower house’s constitutional committee approved the proposal on June 12, and it will need to pass through at least one other committee before going to a floor vote.

If lawmakers pass such a measure, the legislation would take precedence over the top court’s ruling but still could be challenged on constitutional grounds.

Speaking to reporters in capital Brasilia, the Senate's president, Rodrigo Pacheco, said it isn't the Supreme Court's place to issue a decision on the matter.

“There is an appropriate path for this discussion to move forward and that is the legislative process,” he said. “It is something that, obviously, arouses broad discussion and it is a subject of preoccupation for Congress.”

Last year, a Brazilian court authorized some patients to grow cannabis for medical treatment after the health regulator in 2019 approved guidelines for the sale of medicinal products derived from cannabis. But Brazil is one of a few countries in Latin America that hasn’t decriminalized the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal consumption.

The Supreme Court’s ruling has long been sought by activists and legal scholars in a country where the prison population has become the third largest in the world. Critics of current legislation say users caught with even small amounts of drugs are regularly convicted on trafficking charges and locked up in overcrowded jails, where they are forced to join prison gangs.

“Today, trafficking is the main vector for imprisonment in Brazil,” said Cristiano Maronna, director of JUSTA, a civil society group focusing on the justice system.

Brazil ranks behind U.S. and China in countries with the highest prison populations, according to the World Prison Brief, a database tracking such figures.

Some 852,000 individuals were deprived of liberty in Brazil as of December 2023, according to official data. Of those, nearly 25% were arrested for possession of drugs or trafficking. Brazilian jails are overcrowded, and Black citizens are disproportionately represented, accounting for more than two-thirds of the prison population.

A recent study by Insper, a Brazilian research and education institute, determined that Black individuals found by police with drugs were slightly more likely to be indicted as traffickers than white people. The authors analyzed over 3.5 million records from Sao Paulo’s public security secretariat from 2010 to 2020.

“An advance in drug policy in Brazil! This is an issue of public health, not security and incarceration,” leftist lawmaker Chico Alencar wrote on X after the ruling.

By contrast, Gustavo Scandelari, a specialist on Brazil’s penal code at law firm Dotti Advogados, said he doesn't foresee the ruling bringing about a significant shift from the status quo, even after the top court establishes a maximum quantity of marijuana for personal use. Scandelari argued that the amount will remain one determinant of whether authorities consider a person a dealer or a user, but not the only one.

Some Brazilians, like 47-year-old Rio de Janeiro resident Alexandro Trindade, have managed to be upset with both the Supreme Court decriminalizing marijuana and Congress pushing to keep it illegal.

“The Supreme Court is not the right place (for such decision). This should be submitted to a plebiscite for the people to decide,” Trindade said. “Both the Supreme Court and Congress have been very opposed to society in this.”

As in other countries in the region, like Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, medicinal use of cannabis in Brazil is allowed, though in a highly restricted manner.

Uruguay has fully legalized the use of marijuana, and in some U.S. states recreational use for adults is legal. In Colombia, possession has been decriminalized for a decade, but a law to regulate the recreational use of marijuana so that it can be sold legally failed to pass in the Senate in August. Colombians can carry small amounts of marijuana, but selling it for recreational purposes is not legal.

The same goes for Ecuador and Peru. Both distribution and possession remain illegal in Venezuela.

Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled in 2009 it was unconstitutional to penalize an adult for consuming marijuana if it didn’t harm others. But the law has not been changed and users are still arrested, although most cases are thrown out by judges.

Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2013 although it was only implemented in 2017. Uruguay’s whole industry, from production to distribution, is under state control and registered users can buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month through pharmacies.

Sá Pessoa reported from Sao Paulo. Associated Press journalists Mauricio Savarese, Mário Lobão, Regina Garcia Cano and Manuel Rueda contributed to this report.

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - The Brazilian Supreme Court meets during the session regarding Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's corruption conviction, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 4, 2018. The Supreme Court decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - Supreme Court justices preside over a trial in Brasilia, Brazil, June 30, 2023. Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, moved toward decriminalizing possession of marijuana for personal use. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

FILE - Supreme Court justices preside over a trial in Brasilia, Brazil, June 30, 2023. Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, moved toward decriminalizing possession of marijuana for personal use. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Demonstrators carry a giant inflatable joint during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators carry a giant inflatable joint during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads in Portuguese, "Legalize now," during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads in Portuguese, "Legalize now," during a march demanding the legalization of marijuana in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

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Salt Lake City celebrates announcement that it will host the 2034 Winter Olympics

2024-07-24 20:49 Last Updated At:20:50

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City was formally awarded the 2034 Winter Olympics following a Wednesday vote by the International Olympic Committee in Paris, giving Utah its second Games after hosting in 2002.

About a thousand sports fans gathered downtown at 3 a.m. local time — 11 a.m. in Paris — to watch the long-anticipated announcement live. Some dressed in ski gear in the summer heat, while others donned Team USA merchandise and waved flags with the Olympic rings. The crowd erupted in cheers as Olympic officials made their final decision to return to a city where they said the local enthusiasm was palpable even two decades after it first hosted.

Utah's capital city was the only candidate for 2034 after the Olympic committee gave Salt Lake City exclusive negotiating rights last year. Climate change and high operational costs have reduced the number of cities willing and able to welcome the Winter Games. Utah has capitalized on low interest elsewhere, pitching itself to Olympic officials as an eager repeat host if the committee eventually adopts a permanent rotation of Winter Olympic cities. Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said Salt Lake City would be a prime candidate for such a plan.

Local leaders had their sights set on hosting multiple times even before Salt Lake City welcomed its first Games, bid team spokesperson Tom Kelly said. Remnants of the 2002 Games are nestled throughout the city and have kept the Olympic fever alive. Organizers of the 2034 Games touted that enduring enthusiasm throughout the selection process and showed visiting Olympic officials how they have preserved nearly all the venues used in 2002.

“Enthusiasm for the Games was always our feeling, on the first minute to the last minute, in every interaction we had, both at the venues and in our meetings with athletes, sports leaders, politicians and the private sector,” Karl Stoss, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission, told the full committee Wednesday morning in Paris.

Darrell Robinson of Herriman, Utah, celebrated with his family in the early hours Wednesday after his daughter, who was too young to remember Utah’s first Olympics, begged him to join her at the Salt Lake watch party. Robinson also was present when it was announced that the city would host the 2002 Games, and he said it was amazing to relive that moment.

The 2002 Games closely followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and provided a unifying atmosphere Robinson said was needed at the time.

“Everyone was really united and we were able to invite all these countries and just heal as a global community,” he said. “That's something we need again.”

Wednesday's local party coincided with a state holiday marking the date Mormon pioneers discovered the Salt Lake Valley in northern Utah. A drone show lit up the sky over City Hall and parade floats lined the streets, merging the two celebrations into one.

In their final presentation to Olympic officials, the Utah bid team outlined its plan for one of the most compact layouts in Olympic history, with all venues within a one-hour drive of the athletes village on the University of Utah campus. The plan requires no new permanent construction, with all 13 venues already in place and each having played a role when the city first hosted.

Before the vote, Olympic officials inserted into Salt Lake City's host contract a clause that said local officials must work with current and future U.S. presidents and members of Congress to alleviate concerns about a U.S. federal investigation of suspected doping by Chinese swimmers. The committee's unprecedented strong-arm tactics seemed to send a message that the FBI should back away from the case.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox agreed to the committee's demands but told reporters after the vote that the shakeup nearly delayed the bid agreement.

For Cox, securing the bid was central to his goal of cementing the state as North America’s winter sports capital. He and other local leaders were in Paris for the presentation, while many winter Olympians stayed in town to train and join in the festivities.

American freestyle skier Christopher Lillis, a gold medalist at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, said the 2034 Games will be a dream come true for young people with Olympic aspirations. He has been training at nearby Utah Olympic Park and said the sports facilities in the area are “top notch.”

Kate Cross, the mother of a young girl who described herself as a “future gold medalist skier," said the Olympics are the ultimate source of inspiration. Cross moved to Utah a few years after the 2002 Games and is excited to attend Olympic events in person for the first time — possibly as the parent of an athlete.

“We're out here in the middle of the night because she's too excited to sleep,” Cross said. “It's given her something to strive for, a 10-year plan. As a parent, it's amazing to see your kid that motivated.”

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

Olympic rings are pictured Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City, while people gather to watch a live stream from Paris as the International Olympic Committee awards Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

Olympic rings are pictured Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City, while people gather to watch a live stream from Paris as the International Olympic Committee awards Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

People celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris at the moment the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

Patricia Huhem, left, and her daughter, Elisa Huhem, celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

Patricia Huhem, left, and her daughter, Elisa Huhem, celebrate while watching a live feed from Paris moments after the International Olympic Committee awarded Salt Lake City the 2034 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Spenser Heaps)

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks about Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2034 Winter Olympics, during the 142nd IOC session at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Paris, France. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks about Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2034 Winter Olympics, during the 142nd IOC session at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Paris, France. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A woman makes a selfie with Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, left, and IOC president Thomas Bach, center, during the 142nd IOC session at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Paris, France, after Salt Lake City was confirmed as host for the 2034 Winter Games by International Olympic Committee. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

A woman makes a selfie with Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, left, and IOC president Thomas Bach, center, during the 142nd IOC session at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 24, 2024, in Paris, France, after Salt Lake City was confirmed as host for the 2034 Winter Games by International Olympic Committee. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Utah's Olympic delegation poses for a photo at a sendoff celebration at the Salt Lake International Airport prior to boarding a flight to France on Monday, July 22, 2024. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Utah's Olympic delegation poses for a photo at a sendoff celebration at the Salt Lake International Airport prior to boarding a flight to France on Monday, July 22, 2024. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, left, Fraser Bullock and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox take a selfie near the plane as Utah's Olympic delegation boards Delta Flight 2034, Monday, July 22, 2024, bound for Paris from the Salt Lake International Airport. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, left, Fraser Bullock and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox take a selfie near the plane as Utah's Olympic delegation boards Delta Flight 2034, Monday, July 22, 2024, bound for Paris from the Salt Lake International Airport. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Olympic champion Derek Parra, Fraser Bullock, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and others laugh as they cut a cake as Utah's Olympic delegation gather for a sendoff celebration, Monday, July 22, 2024, at the Salt Lake International Airport prior to boarding a flight to France. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Olympic champion Derek Parra, Fraser Bullock, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and others laugh as they cut a cake as Utah's Olympic delegation gather for a sendoff celebration, Monday, July 22, 2024, at the Salt Lake International Airport prior to boarding a flight to France. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Delta flight 2034 bound for Paris and carrying Utah's Olympic delegation takes off from the Salt Lake International Airport, Monday, July 22, 2024. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Delta flight 2034 bound for Paris and carrying Utah's Olympic delegation takes off from the Salt Lake International Airport, Monday, July 22, 2024. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Fraser Bullock and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, from left, pose for a photo near the plane as Utah's Olympic delegation boards Delta Flight 2034, Monday, July 22, 2024, bound for Paris at the Salt Lake International Airport.. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Fraser Bullock and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, from left, pose for a photo near the plane as Utah's Olympic delegation boards Delta Flight 2034, Monday, July 22, 2024, bound for Paris at the Salt Lake International Airport.. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

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