"The war on drugs causes more deaths than drug consumption itself."
When Gerivaldo joined the judiciary of Bahia State Court in 1990, all Brazilian judges were obliged to condemn cannabis users to years behind bars. They had the same lack of descretion as did foot soldiers in the War on Drugs.
Over time, however, he began to confront the violence and hopelessness he was bringing to these young people. He truncated their freedom just because of their private, non-violent choices—their willingness to experience consciousness-altering sensations, as people have done throughout human history. He realized that he was protecting neither public health nor legitimate legal interests.
After much discussion and questioning, the Brazilian government modified its laws but continued to treat the possession of drugs for personal use as a criminal offense, even though punishments would include education as well as incarceration.
But a number of Brazilian judges sensitive to this issue started deciding cases based on the 1988 Federal Constitution, and thus began to exclude from punishment anyone caught with simple possession. Gerivaldo was proud to be among those judges.
After a more than 20-year career, he concluded that Brazil’s War on Drugs had become a more serious problem than that one it was supposed to combat. This policy caused far more deaths than drug consumption itself and took more resources than were invested in treatment for the addicted.
“I joined LEAP in Brazil, whose Statement of Principles includes a sentence I find especially powerful: LEAP believes that adult drug use, however dangerous, is a matter of personal freedom as long as it does not impinge on the freedom or safety of others.”
Thus, alongside distinguished people from the Brazilian Judiciary (such as Maria Lucia Karam, Rubens Casara and Siro Darlan), he found the space and support needed to continue his work as a Brazilian judge who favors regulating the production, sale and consumption of all drugs.—in short, an end to drug prohibition.
Judge, State Court of Bahia – from 1990 to present; currently in the Court of the District of Conceição do Coité
Member of the Associação Juízes para a Democracia (AJD) [Judges for Democracy Association]