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Brazil’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes Personal Cannabis Possession

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Brazil’s top court issued a landmark ruling this week, determining that the nation’s cannabis prohibition policies toward individual consumers possessing a personal amount of cannabis are unconstitutional.

Deliberations began on the personal cannabis possession case in 2015. A majority of the justices on Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of decriminalization. In their decision, the justices made it clear that it only applies to individual consumers and not distributors. What constitutes a ‘personal amount’ of cannabis in Brazil is yet to be specifically defined.

This week’s ruling builds on previous decisions in Brazil, such as a ruling in October 2023 that determined cannabis odor alone does not justify searching an individual’s home. A decision in March 2023 granted a registered NGO permission to cultivate medical cannabis domestically in Brazil after the government refused to grant permission.

In June 2022, Brazil’s top Court ruled in favor of three patients who sought to cultivate their own cannabis.

The ruling in Brazil this week is somewhat similar to court decisions rendered in a handful of other nations. In October 2018, Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed the nation’s prohibition policies against personal use to be unconstitutional.

In 2018 South Africa’s Supreme Court issued a similar ruling as Mexio’s, and in 2019 Italy’s Supreme Court ruled against personal cannabis cultivation prohibition.

Brazil now enters a growing global debate about what constitutes ‘legalization’ or ‘decriminalization’ and which nations fall into which category. Brazil’s ruling this week provides for some protections for individuals, however, it’s clearly not the same as having codified adult-use laws.

Currently, Uruguay, Canada, Malta, Luxembourg, Germany, and South Africa have officially adopted laws that expressly protect adult consumers who possess and use cannabis. Law enforcement is expressly prohibited from going after adult consumers who are within the parameters of those nations’ cannabis laws.

Brazil is in a similar category as Mexico where case law is such that cannabis prohibition pertaining to individual consumers is unconstitutional, but also, lawmakers have not passed a new measure to officially replace old policies with new ones. The saga in Mexico has gone on for over 5 years and still no changes. Only time will tell if the same proves to be true in Brazil.