By Phillip Smith
The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that marches in favor of marijuana legalization can take place. The decision overturns various lower-court decisions that had banned them as "apology for drug use" and "support of drug trafficking."
The ruling came on a unanimous 8-0 vote. The court held that the marches must be allowed if authorities were to respect the rights of freedom of expression and the right to assemble. The marches are a way for citizens to exercise their rights, Justice Celso de Mello said.
"Nothing proves more harmful and dangerous than the desire of the state to repress freedom of expression, especially of ideas that the majority repudiate. Thought should always be free," De Mello said.
In 1997 police arrested members of the band Planet Hemp, immediately following a Sao Paulo show they had recorded for evidence. Police charged the band members with lyrics supporting the use of maconha (marijuana).
Pro-pot legalization marches associated with the Global Marijuana March the first weekend in May each year began in Brazil in Rio de Janeiro and have since popped up in other cities across the country. Beginning in 2008, local courts began banning them, arguing that they were a justification for drug use.
Just a month before this ruling, riot police in Sao Paulo attacked with tear gas and batons more than 1,000 marcherswho had gathered despite a ban on the march. Next year, they won't have the excuse of illegality to repress the pot parade.