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Do Adults Have a Privacy Right to Use Drugs? Brazil’s Supreme Court Decides

The past decade has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the global debate over drug policy. As recently as the mid-2000s, drug legalization or even decriminalization was a fringe idea, something almost no politician would get near. That’s all changed. That the War on Drugs is a fundamental failure is a widely accepted fact among experts and even policymakers. Multiple nations no longer treat personal drug usage as a criminal problem but rather as one of public health. Many of them are actively considering following Portugal’s successful example of decriminalizing all drugs. The global trend is clearly toward abandoning prohibitionist policies.

The rationale most commonly offered for decriminalization is the utilitarian one, i.e. efficacy: that prosecuting and imprisoning drug users produces more harm than good. Also frequently invoked is a claim about justice and morality: that it’s morally wrong to criminally punish someone for what amounts to a health problem (addiction).

By contrast, the Supreme Court of Brazil may be...

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