Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Portugal's Successful Drug Decriminalization

From the Cato study "Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies":

On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were “decriminalized,” not “legalized.” Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

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 drugrelated 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 policymakers 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.

The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.


At 5/13/2009 10:23 AM, Blogger Hot Sam said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5/13/2009 12:53 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

So what do we do about childre born to women taking these legalized drugs? Will you perssonally acknowledge a lifetime of physical and psychological problems these children face. You can go to just about any hospital specializing in the care of children and find a need to simply sit and rock these children while they cope with the fight to withdraw from their inherited addiction.

Decriminalization will be a societal sanction that would legitimize self destruction.

At 5/14/2009 8:30 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

Quote from gettingrational: "So what do we do about childre born to women taking these legalized drugs? Will you perssonally acknowledge a lifetime of physical and psychological problems these children face."

Maybe we should just sterilize those women so they can't have children? Maybe we should screen all women to make sure they're capable of being responsible enough to be pregnant and then raise their children, and then sterilize those that don't pass the test?

We could check for a lot of things besides drug addiction, like smoking, drinking, dancing, religion, politics, etc. Why limit it?

Maybe we could make you our moral conscience and just let you decide all these things for us?

At 5/14/2009 10:12 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Geoih, you have not written anything that you would personally do for children born with decriminalized drugs in their bodies. Do you intend to rock the drug babies as they are weaned off the drug? Will you personally pay for a lifetime of counseling? Will you personally support apy for this child's upbring? Will you personally post bond as this child commits anti-social acts and further pay for the incarceration?

Don't evade your persoanl involvement and let the government both locally and nationally stand in for you. Geioh please commit right now to at least rock one baby to help them rid their addiction. What are you going to do?

At 5/14/2009 11:19 AM, Blogger Matt said...

gettingrational, in your blind hatred of anything drug, you've missed the point. In a nutshell, this paper is making the argument that decriminalization (which is NOT the same as legalization) will reduce drug addiction and associated pathologies, presumably including drug addicted babies.

Stop being a zealot, and stop being the moral police. Skepticism a la the 1st commenter perfectly reasonable, but you invoking "babies" for the sake of knee-jerk emotional responses is anything but 'getting rational'.

I'll tell you what I will personally do for babies. I will support decriminalization in the hopes that we, too, will see a decline or stabilization in drug addiction and associated pathologies.

At 5/14/2009 11:38 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

I am not for decriminalization of drugs because this would be a societal perverse act. BUT, I am for separate courts ("drug courts")for drug using offenders. This type of court is growing in the United States. The average drug user, if convicted, is sentenced to a counseling/rehab program. They will have a criminal record but they will have a chance to confront their addcition and hopefully stop using and get away from a culture of drugs.


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