Author of the book “High price”, for which he won the PEN Prize for Literary Scientific Writing, alongside young Brazilians (Photo: Portal Aprendiz)

Hundreds of people gathered at Aparelha Luzia, in downtown São Paulo, on September 13, for the presentation of Movimentos, a collective created by young people from the periphery and slums of Brazil to discuss drug policy. At the event, the group launched a guidebook on the subject and promoted a debate with North American neuroscientist Carl Hart, a professor at Columbia University and author of the award-winning book “High Price” and Thiago Vinícius, from Agência Solano Trindade, Campo Limpo initiative, in the south zone of São Paulo. The mediation was carried out by Nathália Oliveira, coordinator of the Black Initiative for a New Drug Policy and columnist for pageB!.

“In Brazil we have become really sophisticated in not dealing with the problems of poor people. In a country where the majority of the population is uneducated, we are talking about drugs and drug policy. Something is very wrong with this society, because we should be talking about education,” says Hart, the first black professor in the field at the traditional university where he teaches.

With regard to the lack of access to education, the country really stands out. In 2014, it was ranked 8th in the world with the most illiterate adults, according to a UNESCO report. A study by the Paulo Montenegro Institute with the NGO Ação Educativa also points out that only 8% of Brazilians have the complete ability to communicate through writing/reading.

Debate in São Paulo took place at the Aparelha Luzia cultural center (Photo: Disclosure)

During the discussion, the expert emphasized that one of the most important points on the subject is that people do not have knowledge about substances and their effects, they only have access to misinformation. For example: although legal, alcohol is the most dangerous drug, as evidenced by research by British psychopharmacologist David Nutt, author of the book “Drugs Without the Hot Air” and professor at Imperial College London. In addition, in Brazil, where alcohol is the most consumed drug, between 2006 and 2008, 8 people die a year as a result of drug use, and 96% of them were caused by legalized drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco. are from the National Survey on Alcohol and Drugs and the National Confederation of Municipalities and are printed in the drug policy booklet produced by the Movimentos.

From the provocation on the issue of education, Hart used Cracolândia as an example to explain how drug policy is just another tool of social exclusion used by the State.

“What happens when we talk about Cracolândia is that we imply that using crack is the only thing people are doing there. We are in the opposite direction. Not everyone in that space is also crack or other drug users. But we know that in these spaces everyone is in poverty. What we also know is that a lot of people in that place have psychiatric problems that need to be taken care of – not drug problems, but psychiatric problems,” he reflects.

The researcher suggests that it is necessary to regulate the market if we are concerned about the health of drug users. Because they are prohibited, substances are often adulterated and come with impurities, which can be more harmful to health than the narcotics themselves.

Carl Hart is a professor at Columbia, New York, USA.

In addition, Hart carried out an experiment in New York with crack users in which he offered doses of the substance or money and proved that users make rational decisions, contrary to what is imagined from the stigmatized view of “addicts”. For him, therefore, the violent war on drugs is a resource used to keep the poor and black population marginalized.

“The term allows us not to deal with people and the real problems they face. So politicians use the term Cracolândia, and that means they have no responsibility for the people there. They don't have to worry about educating those people, they don't have to worry about whether these people are psychologically sick. They don't have to worry about racial discrimination”, he points out.

In this way, the expert brought to light how the war on drugs is selectively forced to ensure that we will incarcerate some social segments: “In this society, as in the North American one, our drug policies are used to selectively imprison our black citizens” . The data does not deny it: every 23 minutes a black youth is murdered in the country and 67% of the prison population is black - however, class A youths are the biggest national drug users (blacks represent only 17% of the lower class). rich in the country, despite being 53% of the Brazilian population).

The stories told during the night at Aparelha Luzia also confirm what he says: Thiago Vinícius, a resident of Campo Limpo and one of the founders of the Solano Trindade Agency, spoke about the murder of his brother, who became involved in crime. “Our struggle is much bigger than the Marijuana March, our struggle is that of our brothers and our families, because our family is dying, so that's what we have to connect with”. For the young man, the war on drugs debate must turn to the economic plane, as it was an economic impulse that motivated his brother to turn to crime.

It was also this factor that led Thiago Vinícius to create a social currency in his region: “They said we had no money. We went there and made our own: Solano, our own currency that is accepted in more than 100 shops in Campo Limpo. We are making the economy turn between us. It's black money happening. Got it, partner?”

Solano emerged within the Solano Trindade Agency, a cultural enterprise near the Campo Limpo Terminal created by young people who work in cultural actions in the South Zone of São Paulo. Its objective is to promote culture in the peripheries, through the creative economy.

“This is the only way we will be able to reverse this situation, so that this price cannot be high. We want to finance our own campaigns, not depend on any party. I am part of a generation that took my community from the police pages to occupy the cultural pages. I am proud to be part of this generation, a generation that occupied the Bienal, brought funk there, the Guarani from Tenondé Porã…”, says Vinícius.

Young people from “Movimentos” in an activity held in Rio de Janeiro (Photo: Reproduction/Facebook)

This whole debate was only possible due to the presentation of Movimentos, created more than a year ago by young people from the periphery and slums of Brazil who want to decentralize the debate around drug policy and bring the perspective of those most affected by it.

“We call it Movements because we understand that there is a plurality of movements that take place in the favela, it is not just that prejudiced term that the movement is trafficking and everything else, we understand that there is a living space where bodies circulate” , explains Aristênio Gomes, who grew up in Maré, is a History student at UERJ and one of the participants of the collective.

His speech refers to the introduction of the booklet created by the group, in which they state that even though a new policy is being developed, due to the war on drugs, “we have lost the power of a generation of young people – mostly black – who, murdered or imprisoned, end up becoming a statistic. However, in this debate, the voice of the favela continues to be excluded”.

In the words of Gomes: “This group was born from the need to make itself heard. We also want everything we say about drugs to date to reach the favela. In this debate, the proposition has to come from there, it has to come from the favela, who suffers for it, has to come from the black, who dies for it, who is being arrested for it... It's these people who have to speak!”

To learn about the public policies proposed by the Movements, download the drug booklet they launched here or access the Facebook fanpage.


“The End of the War: Marijuana and the Creation of a New System for Dealing with Drugs”, by Denis Russo Burgierman. Publisher Leya Casa da Palavra. 1st edition, 2011.

“Drugs: the stories they didn't tell you”, by Isabel Clemente. Publisher Zahar. 1st edition, 2017.

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