Public Control, Regulation and Repression of Drugs between the 1930s and 1970s in Brazil

What do we authorize when we prohibit? If we look at drug prohibition from that point of view, we somehow assume a priori that the prohibition of drugs involves total and absolute prohibition. In reality, the aim of national and international policies concerns less the prohibition of drugs than the organization and definition of monopolies and legitimate actors in the production, distribution and use of drugs. Far from being prohibited, a number of substances can circulate in a controlled and regulated manner in various spaces, so long as they are used by individuals and for legitimate purposes, that is, principally scientific and medical. Regulation of this kind is supported not only by mechanisms of repression, but also by activities involving flow control, statistical summaries, classification of substances, authorizations of certain activities, shipments on certain territories, etc.

This thesis aims to analyze the variety of positive practices linked to “prohibition”, from the perspective of a Brazilian institution functioning from 1936-1976: the Comissão Nacional de Fiscalização de Entorpecentes (CNFE)1. Members of the CNFE were responsible both for internal problems of trade control, granting of authorizations, deliverance of diplomas, examination of legislation, rehabilitation of dependent persons, as well as the repression of illegal production and trade. The CNFE is a rich source of information as to the complexity of how prohibitionist policies should be conceived in matters concerning drugs. All the more so, as it is at the crossroads of national and global and aims at producing Brazilian expertise on the subject, able to be integrated in international mechanisms for drug control (NSD then UN) with which it dialogues. The institution thus opens up a field of study particularly interesting for socio-historic research aimed at a further understanding and questioning of contemporary issues linked to drug prohibition.

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Commission nationale de contrôle de stupéfiants.