Drug Decriminalization Policy Pays Off

Discussion in 'Politics' started by KenH, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. KenH

    KenH
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2002
    Messages:
    32,485
    Likes Received:
    0
    Drug Decriminalization Policy Pays Off

    by Glenn Greenwald

    This article appeared in The Politico on October 14, 2010.

    Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, a measure to legalize marijuana. Because no state has ever taken such a step, voters are being subjected to a stream of fear-mongering assertions, unaccompanied by evidence, about what is likely to happen if drug prohibition is repealed.

    But it need not — and should not — be that way.

    Ten years ago, Portugal became the first Western nation to pass full-scale, nationwide decriminalization. That law, passed Oct. 1, 2000, abolished criminal sanctions for all narcotics — not just marijuana but also "hard drugs" like heroin and cocaine.

    This applies only to drugs for personal use; drug trafficking remains a criminal offense. There is now a decade's worth of empirical data on what actually happens — and does not happen — when criminal sanctions against drug possession are lifted.

    By any metric, Portugal's drug-decriminalization scheme has been a resounding success.

    Individuals caught with drugs in Portugal are no longer arrested or treated as criminals. Instead, they are sent to a tribunal of health professionals, where they are offered the opportunity, but are not compelled, to seek government-provided treatment.

    For those found to be addicts, tribunals have the power to impose noncriminal sanctions. But in practice, the overriding goal is to direct people to treatment.

    By any metric, Portugal's drug-decriminalization scheme has been a resounding success. Drug usage in many categories has decreased in absolute terms, including for key demographic groups, like 15-to-19-year-olds. Where usage rates have increased, the increases have been modest — far less than in most other European Union nations, which continue to use a criminalization approach.

    ...

    Beyond the data, Portugal's success with decriminalization is illustrated by the absence of political agitation for a return to criminalization. As one might expect for a socially conservative and predominantly Roman Catholic country, the decriminalization proposal sparked intense controversy a decade ago.

    Many politicians insisted that a vast parade of horribles would be unleashed, including massive increases in drug use among youth and the conversion of Lisbon into a "drug haven for tourists."

    But none of those scary scenarios occurred. Portuguese citizens, able to compare the out-of-control drug problems of the 1990s with the vastly improved situation now, have little desire to return to the days of criminalization. No influential politician advocates doing so.

    ...

    - rest at www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12476
     

Share This Page

Loading...