Portugal's Drug Peace

The Associated Press describes the fallout from Portugal's 2000 decision to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use:

- There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

- Drug-related court cases dropped 66 percent.

- Drug-related HIV cases dropped 75 percent. In 2002, 49 percent of people with AIDS were addicts; by 2008 that number fell to 28 percent.

- The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine - figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

- The number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2008.

While Portugal may be the country that has moved furthest from America's punitive approach to drug use, its policy is by no means libertarian, requiring drug users to undergo "counseling" from Orwellian-sounding Dissuasion Committees and in some cases mandatory "treatment." Still, its experience during the last decade shows that 1) addiction (as opposed to casual use) need not rise and may in fact decline when the government stops treating drug users like criminals, and 2) many of the problems attributed to drug habits, such as skin infections, blood-borne diseases, social marginalization, and squalid living conditions, are caused or exacerbated by prohibition.

More on Portugal's drug policy here and here.

[Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman for the tip.]

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Juanita||

    Drugs are bad because they are illegal, and drugs are illegal because they're bad. QED.

    STAY AWAY FROM MY FAMILY, PINHEAD.

  • Finchy||

    There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

    If it's been decriminalized, is drug use still "illicit"? Not being a smartass; just wondering what that means.

  • ||

    A lot of uptight people still refer to fornication as "illicit sex" even though we almost never go after consenting adults who engage in it.

  • ||

    I go after 'em. The hot ones anyway.

  • SIV||

    RTFA
    You can still get arrested for drugs in Portugal.

    Drugs in Portugal are still illegal. But here's what Portugal did: It changed the law so that users are sent to counseling and sometimes treatment instead of criminal courts and prison. The switch from drugs as a criminal issue to a public health one was aimed at preventing users from going underground. ..

    ...But anyone caught with even a small amount of drugs is automatically sent to what is known as a Dissuasion Committee for counseling. The committees include legal experts, psychologists and social workers.

    Failure to turn up can result in fines, mandatory treatment or other sanctions. In serious cases, the panel recommends the user be sent to a treatment center.

    Public Health workers with police powers to arrest judge and confine. Welcome to Liberaltaria

    The state provides taxpayer-funded methadone too.

  • Sinic||

    Public brainwashing on this issue is such that nobody will care. The same fear that allows the WOT outrages will continue to allow WOD outrages. Fuck the baby boomers who thought it was OK for them to experiment but support imprisoning others who do.

  • ||

    As someone who was a schoolboy at the height of Nancy Reagan and her "Just Say No" campaign, we were fed a steady diet of her propaganda in the classroom every single day.

  • ||

    But they were a special generation, Sinic. They could handle drugs, whereas their children clearly cannot. They're not hypocrites; not at all. They had Woodstock! They tried to "change" things! Not like their slacker Gen X children.

  • Warty||

    I see my weather doomsday machine has failed to destroy you. Pity.

  • ||

    Your weather machines cannot affect me, Luthor.

    Strangely enough, my area in CT only got about 5-6 inches max, and the same all the way to Logan, whereas NY and other areas got upwards of 20 inches. For me, it was just a run of the mill Nor'easter.

    They had pornoscanners at Logan, by the way, but it was just one and if you got in a different line you could just do the metal detector. I think they're determined to keep them, but are giving people who want it a way out without the patdown. Basically, only sheep and fools went through the scanner.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Your weather machines cannot affect me, Luthor.

    I thought he was The Drizzle.

  • Warty||

    "Hello, Japan? Yes, connect me to Godzilla, please."

  • ||

    Shake: Search for "super crime", "girls in trouble", and "press release out two".

    Frylock: Hey, here's what your search turned up.

    Shake: Sex with animals?!? There's no time, man!!!

    Yup, he's definitely The Drizzle.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Give it up Epi, that shit isn't funny.

  • ||

    Just because you can't appreciate surreal cartoons about food items doesn't mean we can't, Hugh. ATHF speaks to real life, as evidenced by the episode "Global Grilling".

  • BakedPenguin||

    Hugh, there are a few of us who like the weirdness of Adult Swim. Notice I'm the one who brought it up this time.

  • Warty||

    That's disappointing. I was looking forward to having my balls vigorously handled the next time I fly.

  • ||

    You always have the option. Isn't it nice of the TSA to provide options?

  • Sinic||

    Sadly, it won't be any different when Gen X is in charge. So fuck us to.

  • ||

    Thank you for that acknowledgement.

  • ||

    This is true because, like my high school class, the people that care about such things will exert all efforts to "handle it" while those who don't give a crap will simply partake and keep their mouths shut because they're lazy.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Still, [Portugal]'s experience during the last decade shows that 1) addiction (as opposed to casual use) need not rise and may in fact decline when the government stops treating drug users like criminals, and 2) many of the problems attributed to drug habits, such as skin infections, blood-borne diseases, social marginilization, and squalid living conditions, are caused or exacerbated by prohibition.

    These are features, not bugs, to the true Drug Warriors out there. Like those who added poison to alcohol during prohibition, they want those who offend their morality to suffer and die. The idea that public health will improve is either irrelevant or anathema to them.

  • Democrats||

    its policy is by no means libertarian, requiring drug users to undergo "counseling" from Orwellian-sounding Dissuasion Committees and in some cases mandatory "treatment.

    We could get behind something like this.

  • ||

    I wonder how accurate it is to extrapolate from the results in a small nation like Portugal and assume the same results would apply to the USA.It seems much easier to do social engineering in a small population.

  • BakedPenguin||

    On the off-chance you're not a troll, I'll point out what should be obvious.

    Trying to get people to stop doing drugs, by whatever method, might qualify as "social engineering."

    Leaving people alone doesn't.

  • ||

    Too bad Portugal declared war on sound economic policy.

  • cynical||

    The government better stop decriminalizing drugs, and start taxing them.

  • jtuf||

    An estimated 20,000 Americans died in the War on Drugs between 2000 and 2010. That is more than double the USA and allied death toll from 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. It is time to end the War on Drugs.

  • Ralp||

    The policy was developed by local Libertarians in consultation with the Libertarian International Organization. The next step from decriminalization is legalization. Recreational users are in general left alone. See: http://www.Libertarian-International.org and page down to older page.

  • Van||

    Here's a direct link Ralp. Portugese Libertarians.

  • Van||

    This why I go to Romania, not Somalia.

  • fine crusher||

    I wonder how accurate it is to extrapolate from the results in a small nation like Portugal and assume the same results would apply to the USA.It seems much easier to do social engineering in a small population.

  • Nike Dunk High||

    thanks

  • شات عراقنا||

    thanks

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement