UPDATE The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. [read more...] -The Portuguese Experiment: Did Legalizing Drugs Work? - Time One of the main arguments against drug legalisation/decriminalisation is that drug use will explode and the planets will collide causing chaos on earth. The fact that most illicit drugs are already easily available should dump this theory on it’s head but there will always be uncertainty until it is tested. Adding to the debate was an interesting discovery where American teenagers said it was more difficult to buy alcohol and cigarettes than it was to obtain illegal drugs. The saturation of illicit drugs already in the market place is often overlooked by the doomsday crowd when it comes to the fear of increased use caused by legalisation or decriminalisation but conveniently reappears in other arguments. Common sense tells us that repeating the same current strategies expecting a different result is pointless and a new approach is warranted but until some country or state tests it, we can never really be sure. Portugal were fairly sure the planets would remain in their place when they decided in 2001 to implement a new policy of decriminalisation for small amounts of all drugs. With a rising drug problem, over flowing prisons and an increased demand on police resources, Portugal had grown frustrated that low level users were making up the bulk of drug arrests. The decision to decriminalise small amounts of drugs was a bold move and probably a necessary one if Portugal were serious about finding a better solution to their drug problem. That was over 8 years ago and now we have a detailed report on the results.
Some quick facts. Since Portugal decriminalised small amounts of drugs in 2001: •The number of users in Portugal has decreased in various age groups whilst it has increased in most EU states. •Rates of drug use in Portugal is lower than most EU states. Some EU states now have drug use rates that are double and triple that of Portugal •Opiate related deaths have more than halved in Portugal •Teen marijuana use in Portugal has nearly halved •Large increase in users seeking treatment Read an extract from the Glenn Greenwald’s whitepaper.
None of the fears promulgated by opponents of Portuguese decriminalization has come to fruition, whereas many of the benefits predicted by drug policymakers from instituting a decriminalization regime have been realized. While drug addiction, usage, and associated pathologies continue to skyrocket in many EU states, those problems—in virtually every relevant category—have been either contained or measurably improved within Portugal since 2001 -Glenn Greenwald
Related Articles: The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal More on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal Portugal's drug decriminalization 'bizarrely underappreciated': Greenwald
Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies by Glenn Greenwald Cato Institute EXTRACT Conclusion: None of the fears promulgated by opponents of Portuguese decriminalization has come to fruition, whereas many of the benefits predicted by drug policymakers from instituting a decriminalization regime have been realized. While drug addiction, usage, and associated pathologies continue to skyrocket in many EU states, those problems—in virtually every relevant category—have been either contained or measurably improved within Portugal since 2001. In certain key demographic segments, drug usage has decreased in absolute terms in the decriminalization framework, even as usage across the EU continues to increase, including in those states that continue to take the hardest line in criminalizing drug possession and usage. By freeing its citizens from the fear of prosecution and imprisonment for drug usage, Portugal has dramatically improved its ability to encourage drug addicts to avail themselves of treatment. The resources that were previously devoted to prosecuting and imprisoning drug addicts are now available to provide treatment programs to addicts. Those developments, along with Portugal’s shift to a harm-reduction approach, have dramatically improved drug- related social ills, including drug-caused mortalities and drug-related disease transmission. Ideally, treatment programs would be strictly voluntary, but Portugal’s program is certainly preferable to criminalization. The Portuguese have seen the benefits of decriminalization, and therefore there is no serious political push in Portugal to return to a criminalization framework. Drug policy makers in the Portuguese government are virtually unanimous in their belief that decriminalization has enabled a far more effective approach to managing Portugal’s addiction problems and other drug-related afflictions. Since the available data demonstrate that they are right, the Portuguese model ought to be carefully considered by policymakers around the world.