Top Brazilian researcher faces ‘marijuana apologist’ claims

Accusations are a ‘cruel and empty provocation against dedicated scientist’, say sector leaders

March 5, 2018
Sao Paulo
Source: iStock

One of Brazil’s most renowned drug research scientists has been placed under investigation for alleged “drug apology”, sparking outrage in the academic community.

Elisaldo Luiz de Araujo Carlini, emeritus professor of pharmacology at the Federal University of São Paulo and director of the Brazilian Centre for Information on Psychotropic Drugs, was taken in for police questioning on 21 February regarding his open advocacy of the medical uses of marijuana.

The Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science vehemently defended Dr Carlini and his work, praising him for findings that have led to a number of effective treatments for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis that are now standard practice across the world.

A joint statement from the two bodies said: “Dr Carlini remains the most respected Brazilian scientist working in the area of drugs.

“To accuse [him] of apologising for drugs amounts to criminalising intelligence and technical scientific knowledge,” they continued. “It is a cruel and empty provocation against a scientist who has dedicated his whole life to the frontier of knowledge.”

Dr Carlini, whose career studying the psychological effects of legal and illegal drugs spans more than six decades, was responsible for organising Brazil’s annual marijuana symposium, held in May last year.

Scientists joined world experts in politics, history and law at the event, during which Dr Carlini made reference to the fact he had invited Geraldo Antonio Baptista, the founder of Brazil’s first Rastafarian church and a convicted drug trafficker. Baptista was jailed in 2013 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, but Dr Carlini said that he had requested he be given temporary leave from prison to attend.

Giving testimony at the São Paulo state public prosecutor’s office in Campinas, Dr Carlini said: “I have always been against marijuana condemnation as a dangerous drug.

“It is increasingly recognised as a good drug and has positive effects widely described by the world scientific community, especially in cases of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. But I’ve never spoken a word for or against recreational use.”

State prosecutor Rosemary Azevedo da Silva said that the researcher’s invitation to Baptista suggested “indignation” and provided “strong evidence of apology to crime”.

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