Francine Demands Cognitive Liberty
(c) Reuters, Nov. 20, 2001, By
under title "Brazil TV host's candor stirs marijuana debate"
PAULO, Brazil, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A popular Brazilian television
who was fired for admitting she occasionally smoked marijuana was
unrepentant on Tuesday, saying she was not a criminal as her dismissal re-ignited
national debate on pot laws.
Francine, Brazil's top female soccer commentator and a former MTV
presenter, was fired late Monday by publicly funded TV Cultura, which said
it could not allow one of its employees to promote illegal acts. Francine,
popularly known as Soninha, hosted a talk show geared at adolescents.
She and three other Brazilians appeared on the cover of news magazine
Epoca this weekend and billboard advertisements across the country beside
the headline "I Smoke Marijuana." The cover story highlighted
the recreational use of pot among professionals and Brazilians' sometimes
conservative attitudes toward its use.
"I am not a pothead, I am the same person I was before," the
34-year-old mother of three said on Tuesday on a talk show.
"But the fact that a person consumes a substance should not turn that
person into a criminal, even if that substance is bad for them or is bad
for their health," said Francine, who says she smokes very little,
usually at parties or friends' homes.
Marijuana use is illegal in Brazil although experts say it is becoming
more common, especially among adolescents.
According to an estimate by the Brazilian government cited in a U.N.
report on world drug use, 7.7 percent of Brazilians use cannabis, compared
to 9 percent in the United Kingdom and 8.9 percent in the United States.
Other magazines have also recently run stories on marijuana use, including
one in the weekly Veja entitled "My dad smokes grass with me,"
and another in which a Sao Paulo city official called for debate on the
medicinal use of cannabis.
Meanwhile, as Francine's plight became the focus of debate on daytime talk
shows and spot polls, experts said one problem in dealing with marijuana
use was the country's strict 1976 law that adheres to a stricter U.S.
model instead of a more liberal stance like the Netherlands or Portugal,
which have decriminalized personal use.
"Brazil is moving in the opposite direction of the modern
approaches," said Walter Maierovitch, Brazil's first drug czar who
now heads a crime research center in Sao Paulo.
"What predominates is prohibition and bad information."
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