The law would allow the involuntary commitment of drug users by the recommendation of a relative or a public health official.
Brazil is on track to pass national legislation that would allow drug users to undergo forced rehabilitation, the Washington Post reports.
On May 15, after passing Brazil’s lower chamber of congress, the Chamber of Deputies, the legislation was approved in the Senate as well. It now requires the signature of President Jair Bolsonaro to become law. Bolsonaro has indicated his support for the legislation.
The law would allow the involuntary commitment of drug users by the recommendation of a relative or a public health official, according to the Post. The individual would need the approval of medical professionals if they are to be released.
Drug policy reformers say this provision of the legislation is especially concerning—calling it a “perfect example of how this government seeks to resolve complex issues with simple and wrong solutions.”
Approaches “of this kind have failed and damaged the credibility of health professionals, with drug users wanting to run away from them,” said Leon Ribeiro, a public health psychiatrist and former member of Brazil’s National Secretariat for Drug Policy. “They’re trying to use punishment and the loss of freedom as a solution for those who consume drugs.”
Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to decriminalize marijuana possession and consumption on June 5. The Post noted that the government is hoping to “influence” the ruling by passing the controversial legislation.
Similarly, in the United States, dozens of states allow the involuntary commitment of drug users. The Daily Beast reported in 2017 that in light of the opioid crisis, more states were considering allowing it or expanding existing policies.
At the time, the Daily Beast cited figures by the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, which counted 37 states with existing statutes allowing for “substance abusers who have not committed a crime to be briefly detained against their will.”
This year, NPR reported on Massachusetts’ unusually “aggressive” use of its involuntary commitment law.
In the last fiscal year, more than 6,500 residents were ordered to treatment via involuntary commitment. It is still legal for men who are committed to involuntary addiction treatment to be sent to prisons and jails. Understandably, this has the potential to yield tragic results. The practice was outlawed for women in 2016.