What America Can Learn From Portugal's Drug War Reforms

The level of conflicts on the street are reduced. Drug-related robberies are reduced. And now the police are not the enemies of the consumers.

Unlike Bill Clinton, President Obama admits he inhaled!. “Frequently,” he said. “That was the point.”

People laugh when politicians talk about their drug use. The audience laughed during a 2003 CNN Democratic presidential primary debate when John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean admitted smoking weed.

Yet those same politicians oversee a cruel system that now stages SWAT raids on people’s homes more than 100 times a day. People die in these raids—some weren’t even the intended targets of the police.

Neill Franklin once led such raids. The 33-year Maryland police veteran, now executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc), locked up hundreds of people for drugs and felt good about it.

“We really thought that these drugs made people evil,” he told me.

But 10 years ago Franklin decided that drugs—even hard drugs—do much less harm to Americans than does the drug war

“Drugs can be—and are in many cases—problematic. But the policies that we have in place to prohibit their use are 10 times more problematic.”

The raids helped change his mind. “We end up with kids being shot...search warrants being served on the wrong home, innocent people on the other side of the door thinking that they are protecting their home.”

And the level of drug use remains about the same.

Still, most Americans support the drug war. Paul Chabot, White House drug adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton, told me: “We should be kicking down more doors....They’re kicking the door of somebody who’s a violent person.”

Violent? People who get high are rarely violent. The violence occurs because when something’s illegal, it is sold only on the black market. And that causes crime. Drug dealers can’t just call the cops if someone tries to steal their supply. So they form gangs and arm themselves to the teeth.

“We have the violence of these gangs competing for market share, and people get hurt,” said Franklin.

Especially kids. Drug gangs constantly look for new recruits.

“Some of these gangs have better recruitment programs than Fortune 500 companies. They know what to say to kids.”

People think that if drugs were legal, there would be more recruiting of kids. Franklin says the opposite is true.

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  • Ring||

    How come everyone isn't vacationing in Portugal instead of Amsterdam? Not enough bike paths?

  • Jerry||

    Not enough easyJet flights?

  • SIV||

    Great beaches but they can still lock you up for drugs.

  • der||

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    There's no exit strategy for this war. It makes too many of the right people too much money, and everyone else has been effectively brainwashed.

  • Exit Strategy||

    Ultimately, THE MARKET ALWAYS FINDS A SOLUTION; the problem is that most people who trumpet that fact tend to suffer a lack of imagination where what such a solution might entail is concerned. As Joseph Tainter took such pains to point out in The Collapse of Complex Societies, collapse is, above all, an economizing process.

    Thesis #20:Collapse is an economizing process.
    Thesis #27: Collapse increases quality of life.
    by Jason Godesky

  • Stossel, white courtesy phone||

    ...most people who trumpet that fact...

    I agree. Mostly, Libertarianism is faith in the progressivism of civilization (or as WI calls it, City-Statism) just like the leftists or any other [city]statist.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No hop-ons.

  • Da, Comrade Political Officer||

    We will follow your glorious 5 year plan to triumph over the Enemies of the City-State! Especially when we don't have anything smart to say anyway.

  • ||

    I agree...? Funny how WI's fictional array of sockpuppets are the only ones that would ever make that statement. They also seem to generate more than half of the comments and replies to its posts these days. And how does this communist-city-statist-primitard gibberish tie into an article on drug decriminalization even remotely? Fucking weak Dude! Cut and paste some random article against circumcision or with your favorite deviled egg recipe next time. It would be every bit as irrelevant as this nonsense and clog up the thread just as well but at least be more original than this brainwashed cyborg logic loop you seem to be stuck in.

  • Brother Grimm||

    What!? Are you saying that circular logic based on circumstantial evidence, devoid of relevance, and cited falsly is somehow comical!? Well, you must be a part of the frolic lockdown conspiracy!!!

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Very true, FOE. And to Chabot I would ask how anything got done in America prior to 1914, when every freaking drug on the planet was legal, with most being sold over the counter in pharmacies. But back then, gov't was our servant, not our master.

  • Jerry||

    True that. I was browsing some old newspapers a while ago, and people actually got arrested by the police back then for trying to pass off salt or chalk as cocaine.

  • ||

    people actually got arrested by the police back then for trying to pass off salt or chalk as cocaine.

    FRAUD! Lock em all up.

  • Doctor Whom||

    (reads Chabot's arguments)

    This is your brain. This is willful ignorance. This is your brain in willful ignorance. Any questions?

  • cowardly commenter some guy||

    He isn't willfully ignorant. He knows he's a damned liar and a hypocrite. He just doesn't care because he's getting paid to be a damned liar and a hypocrite.

  • cowardly commenter some guy||

    It's also funny how we needed a constitutional amendment to outlaw alcohol, but not to outlaw drugs.

    Seriously, though. Where would we be today if Obama had been busted for doing drugs in his youth?

    And what do you call someone who breaks the law and evades prosecution, then later prosecutes and punishes someone else for breaking the same law? It's enough to drive a sane person mad.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Where would we be today if Obama had been busted for doing drugs in his youth?

    Marginally better off - with a slightly more intelligent, and much more attractive Vice President.

  • Glossolalia||

    Most insightful comment thus far! +1

  • ||

    They were not outlawing just *alcohol*, they were outlawing frosty cold beer on a hot summer day washing down hotdogs and potato salad, and the jug of red passed around the table at a family dinner. Beer and wine are FOOD. Maybe if they limited prohibition to distilled spirits (with exceptions for medicinal uses) prohibition would have not been a problem. With quite a number of people, getting tipsy is a side effect of the enjoyment of life, not the aim. Getting high is ALWAYS the goal of drugs, unless it is to relieve pain.

  • Legendary Teabagger Vance||

    Such a lie.

    The majority of beer (coors, bud, miller) sold in the US taste like crap. It's not being drunk for the taste. Same with wine, I would assume.

    And the way you imagine drug use isn't the norm. The social setting that surrounds alcohol is also occurs with drug use, and is valued much the same way. The laughter in the marijuana smoke filled room.. the endless conversation after the snort of a line...

    You imagine drug users as demonic fiends, but it's not reality.

  • ||

    It's not being drunk for the taste.

    Ah, but no-one drinks water for the taste either, but that doesn't affect its refreshment value.

  • Ice Nine ||

    The majority of beer (coors, bud, miller) sold in the US taste like crap. It's not being drunk for the taste. Same with wine, I would assume.

    Whew, a bad case of the ignorants, you have. Of course the majority of the beer sold in the US is drunk for the taste. It just doesn't happen to have the same refinement as your beer taste perhaps (and I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be impressed by that).

    Same for the wine. Conversely, it would appear that you aren't familiar with the taste of - or perhaps with the existence of - fine American wines. And somewhere someone is likely condescendingly noting and deriding that.

  • Legendary Teabagger Vance||

    A quick google search turns up some of the top wines consumed in the US:
    Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay,
    Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel,
    Sutter Home White Zinfandel
    Inglenook Chablis.

    Hardly fine wines consumed by the masses, which you claim value taste.

    My point is not that people have shitty tastes. You can get great beer and wine here. But they buy these brands of beer and wine because the mood altering effects are what they seek. The list would look different if taste were more important. People buy mass quantities of cheap shit because that gives you the best intoxication for your buck.

    It's stupid to pretend alcohol is consumed mainly for taste, and drugs for intoxication.

  • ||

    I hate the taste of beer, but there's nothing like the taste of a double shot of tequila.

  • ||

    "Getting high is ALWAYS the goal of drugs . . . ."

    You say that like it's a bad thing.

  • ||


  • Brett||

    Exceptions were in place for home made wine and cider and the USDA promoted wines as a way for families to produce fruit (only the sale of wine was prohibited). There was an effort by vintners and brewers to outlaw spirits as a way of appeasing drys and destroying competition.

  • MojoDawg||

    Every time I hear the "argument" that drinking and drugs aren't the same because the intent of doing drugs is to get high, it scares the heck out of me.

    Legislating intent? Really?

  • Glossolalia||

    Yeah. Never happens.

  • Paul||

    Amazing, there's a travelin' man who stands on the streetcorner where I live who carries the exact same sign.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I've given money to the honest ones before. Because, no beer. It's the "my car broke down and I need bus fare..." BS that I ignore.

  • ||

    I would have an entirely different opinion of panhandlers who came out and said "hey, i'm a lazy drunk, care to help me hasten my own demise?"

  • ||

    The guys are hungry and refuse free hamburgers. Go figure.

  • We Want Free Food!||

    Mother Culture teaches that, “hunter-gatherers must live in a state of utter and unending anxiety over what tomorrow’s going to bring.” But anthropologists will tell you that, “they are far less anxiety-ridden than you are. They have no jobs to lose. No one can say to them, ‘Show me your money or you don’t get fed, don’t get clothed, don’t get sheltered.’”

    ~Daniel Quinn


    There ain't no such thing as a free lunch in an agricultural-city-Statist free market.

    Quite the paradox. Maybe the "free" in "Free Market Fundamentalism" isn't necessarily so honest.

  • ||

    Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman!!!!!

  • Drug Warrior||

    And just look at what that wasted country produces: fucking CORK.

  • Matrix||

    It's not about protecting people. It's about money. More money to buy equipment for police departments. More money for prisons. More money to keep prisoners alive. It's all about money. Plus, cartels know keeping drugs illegal is a boon to their business.

    Drug lords, politicians, police, contractors, and even legal drug manufacturers all profit from making certain drugs illegal.

  • Capitalists profit from making||

    ...hunting and gathering a free lunch illegal, with their big-government regulations that create artificial borders to restrict the free movement of people.

    Gambol Lockdown. Entheogen Lockdown. All the same thing. Agricultural city-Statism.

  • Gamble Lockout||

    Casinos for the Billionaire Casino-Owning-Chieftain Obama contributors.
    Lockout for everyone else.

  • That's agriCityStatism for ya||

    Non-State society was completely wiped out, Fibertard.

    "Today less than 0.001 per cent of the world's people live outside of the direct control of state societies."

    ~Elman R. Service (1975), Origins of the State and Civilization: The Process of Cultural Evolution. New York: Norton.

  • Niven||

    "Think of it as Evolution in Action."

  • ||

    Um... Newt Gingrich contributors, maybe?

  • Carston||

    Yup, and the drug lords siphon their money back to the politicians to keep it illegal...

  • david||

    What can we learn? How to increase hippy and libertarian tourism?

  • CE||

    And the level of drug use remains about the same.

    This is the part the Prohibitionists never bother to explain. They seem to think the violence and the corruption and rights violations are okay, because they are protecting people from the dangers of drugs. But the reality is that they're increasing those dangers, not just from street crime, but from the lack of quality control that a legal competitive market would bring about.

  • ||

    But the reality is that they're increasing those dangers, and not doing a damn thing about the level of use/abuse, except possibly granting a small boost.

  • Nash||

    It's important to note that drugs still aren't legal to sell in Portugal. You just can't get busted for possession. Drugs are not sold legally anywhere in Portugal. That's an important distinction and we shouldn't just cite it as a case proof positive that "legal" drugs don't increase use. If they were sold at 7-11 they might. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, but it's an important point.

  • ||

    it's an excellent point.

  • Paul||

    This is an excellent point, but it also goes to show that with even moderate tweaks to our method of prohibtion and its focus, dramatic results in the positive can be obtained.

  • ||

    and all the reasonoid "best is the enemy of the good" wankers will come along and say without full scale legalization of possession AND sale, the law doesn't make things any better

    like they do with medical MJ laws - as has been seen here extensively.

    anything short of full pony fulfillment is seen as useless .

    again, look at all the wanking about medical MJ for proof of that.

  • ||

    1) some people will choose to use drugs whether or not they are legal. and most who use illegal drugs will do so (relatively) responsibly. a small %age will become massive abusers/addicts and be (mostly) a danger to themselves and to others - if they have kids, etc. but plenty who use drugs, illicit or otherwise , don't want "help". thye just want to be left alone to do their drugs. even many legalization/harm reduction advocates support (usually a statist) mechanisms to push people towards treatment, etc. when some people simply want to be left alone to do their rec drugs once or twice a week.

    2) others won't do these drugs whether or not they are legalized. these are the vast majority of people. if we legalized heroin tomorrow, the VAST majority of people would still never go near it

    3) some will use, become addicted/devastated by them AND want to get help, or will accept it

  • Glossolalia||

    Not sure of your point. Is it that the only difference would be your job security?

  • Banjoopy||

    Drugs, schmugs!

    Who wants to hear about our wedding?

  • Schmoopy||

    I do!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Newt Gingrich supporters? I've heard of these mythical creatures, but...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That's not Romney's Republican opponent. It's Newt Gingrich.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sandra talking about "big bonuses" coming through the door is kind of a turn on.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Paul Levy or Richie Rich's dad? You decide.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Don't sugar coat your candy store analogy for us, Paul.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    For Gaia's sake, someone point out that it's better to fire two people than for the whole company go tits up and everyone loses their jobs.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ha, Paul Levy voted for Obama. And he wants to be my venture capitalism salesman.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Why in the hell does Fannie Mae even need a television commericial? Who's it really competing with?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    John Taylor is blaming the free mahket. Fannie and Freddie got dragged with it, apparently.

  • Fist of Etiquette||


  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ha, Taylor is "advocating a free mahket" but with "rule of law". So, crony capitalism.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Congress agrees with Bob that insider trading is a good thing. FOR CONGRESS.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    SEC, the TSA of Wall Street.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Who's this "they" Michael Moore is talking about who's getting richer in capitalism? Perhaps a documentary maker?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is that one suede jacket over another suede jacket?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ha, liberals are against crony capitalism "in principle". In reality, they love it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Capitalism... makes a lot of money for itself."

    Which, of course, leaves socialists out in the cold.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    FREE MARKET EQUALS ANARCHY! How would the government pick winners and losers without regulation?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yeah, Europe is ahead of us in social mobility. Downward.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stosselbucks! Backed by breakgiving.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Was David Barker the scientist who was ritually killed by the Operative in Serenity?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't know why the Stoss bothers with these man on the street interviews. They inevitably let him down more often than not.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stoss doesn't understand it's a zero sum game.

  • ||

    “If we were to do away with our drug laws...we know drug usage numbers will skyrocket,” Chabot said.

    1. 'numbers' MIGHT skyrocket because people won't be afraid to report drug use.
    2. Circular logic is circular.

  • Orville Redeyepacker||

    I get juiced on Mateus and just hang loose.

  • ||

    Well, this is the conventional wisdom in the drug policy reform community, that successful marijuana legalization efforts will end SWAT raids, along with other violent enforcement tactics that are part and parcel of the War on Drugs. Lately, it has also been echoed by other notables in drug policy changes. Morgan Fox at the MPP now comes to my mind. However, it is wrong. It is wrong because the War on Drugs exists independently of marijuana prohibitions. Ending marijuana prohibition is I think a necessary and liberty-enhancing imperative for our country. However, it alone will not end the military-style raids on severely ill patients and businesses operating lawfully under state law….

    Olivia from http://cashadvancesus.com/

  • ||

    These points are Valid. Our government believes they have the authority to Control everything we put into our bodies.

    This Totalitarian belief is ass backwards.
    You are the master of your own body, you decide what you put into your body in any form. You decide what you eat, drink, smoke, how much you exercize or none of the above. The Government needs to Ban all Bans on everything that we Consume.

    What gives Government Agencies the authority to determine what Sovereign People can put into our bodies?
    Sovereign means (Independent, Self Ruled,With Complete power. This means we have Independent Rule over our own body, Not ruled by any other Authority.)When we elect people we Don't give them authority to make decisions on what we Consume, or Concent to give them authority over our bodies or to make decisions effecting our own Sovereign decisions.

  • ||

    I have an issue with legalizing drugs. Just last week Senator Schumer recommended making illegal fake herbal marijuana. There's many laws we have that outlaw less innocuous things than marijuana. The gov't wants to control our food, ban sugar and salt, yet they want to make drugs legal? And who's to say this will solve the issue? Won't people still grow it and sell it illegally? Won't people be able to access it easier and be able to be doped up in school, jobs, driving, etc? It's easier to hide being drugged than drunk. I kind of like what New York did to cigarettes - tax it so much it's insane to buy them!

  • ||

    One hint that the War on Drugs is winding down is that private prison companies like Correction Corporation of America are starting to push for a War on Illegal Immigrants. Even CCA is starting to see that they can't milk the drug cow forever, no matter how many politicians they buy.

    When Arizona was brewing up SB1070, there were probably more private prison lobbyists in Phoenix than illegals. Russell Pearce, the now-recalled AZ State Senate President, was fat and happy there for a while. Now he's just fat.


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