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Thread: The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

    Saturday March 14, 2009 06:19 EDT
    The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

    In 2001, Portugal became the only EU-member state to decriminalize drugs, a distinction which continues through to the present. Last year, working with the Cato Institute, I went to that country in order to research the effects of the decriminalization law (which applies to all substances, including cocaine and heroin) and to interview both Portuguese and EU drug policy officials and analysts (the central EU drug policy monitoring agency is, by coincidence, based in Lisbon). Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

    On April 3, at 12:00 noon, at the Cato Institute in Washington, I'll be presenting the 50-page report I wrote for Cato, entitled Drug Decriminalization in Portugal. Following my presentation, a supporter of drug criminalization laws -- Peter Reuter, a Professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Criminology -- will comment on the report (and I'll be able to comment after that), and then there will be a Q-and-A session with the audience. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Details and registration are here at Cato's site, where the event can also be watched live online (and, possibly, on C-SPAN).

    There is clearly a growing recognition around the world and even in the U.S. that, strictly on empirical grounds, criminalization approaches to drug usage and, especially, the "War on Drugs," are abject failures, because they worsen the exact problems they are ostensibly intended to address. "Strictly on empirical grounds" means excluding from the assessment: (a) ideological questions regarding the legitimacy of imprisoning adults for consuming drugs they choose to consume; (b) the evisceration of Constitutional and civil liberties wrought by drug criminalization; and (c) the extraordinary sums of money devoted to the War on Drugs both domestically and internationally.

    Very recent events demonstrating this evolving public debate over drug policy include the declaration of the Drug War's failure from several former Latin American leaders; a new Economist Editorial calling for full-scale drug legalization; new polls showing substantial and growing numbers of Americans (and a majority of Canadians) supportive of marijuana legalization; the decision of the DEA to make good on Obama's campaign pledge to cease raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states which have legalized its usage; and numerous efforts in the political mainstream to redress the harsh and disparate criminal penalties imposed for drug offenses, including Obama's support for treatment rather than prison for first-time drug offenders.

    Particularly in the U.S., there is still widespread support for criminalization approaches and even support for the most extreme and destructive aspects of the "War on Drugs," but, for a variety of reasons, the debate over drug policy has become far more open than ever before. Portugal's success with decriminalization is highly instructive, particularly since the impetus for it was their collective recognition in the 1990s that criminalization was failing to address -- and was almost certainly exacerbating -- their exploding, poverty-driven drug crisis. As a consensus in that country now recognizes, decriminalization is what enabled them to manage drug-related problems far more effectively than ever before, and the nightmare scenarios warned of by decriminalization opponents have, quite plainly, never materialized.

    The counter-productive effects of drug criminalization are at least as evident now for the U.S. as they were for pre-decriminalization Portugal. Beyond one's ideological beliefs regarding the legitimacy of criminalization, drug policy should be determined by objective, empirical assessments of what works and what does not work. It's now been more than seven years since Portugal decriminalized all drugs, and dispassionately examining the effects of that decision provides a unique opportunity to assess questions of drug policy in the most rational and empirical manner possible.

    -- Glenn Greenwald

    The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

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    Elite Member katerpillar's Avatar
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    Note to self: visit Portugal ASAP.

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    Just think about the amount of law enforcement and taxpayers time, money, resources and manpower that would be saved if cops stopped focussing on busting a few kids with a couple of joints in their pockets and went after the real crims out there.
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    Silver Member NedNederlander's Avatar
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    I don't really know what to think about this. It has been a double standard to allow certain drugs, (i.e. alcohol and tobacco) while prohibiting others. And if one can save all that money, great.

    But with drugs comes crime and violence, plus most drugs are bad for you. I wouldn't want to live near 'em.

    Also this would mean drug dealer is now a legitimate profession, right? That would be something for the guidance counsellors to promote.
    -You don't want to go in to welding. Drug dealing, that's where the money is.

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    ... do we really want cab drivers on meth?
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    Elite Member crumpet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NedNederlander View Post
    I don't really know what to think about this. It has been a double standard to allow certain drugs, (i.e. alcohol and tobacco) while prohibiting others. And if one can save all that money, great.

    But with drugs comes crime and violence, plus most drugs are bad for you. I wouldn't want to live near 'em.

    Also this would mean drug dealer is now a legitimate profession, right? That would be something for the guidance counsellors to promote.
    -You don't want to go in to welding. Drug dealing, that's where the money is.
    I actually think that the illegal status of drugs is what contributes to most of the crime. That' where the shootings, gangs, mobs, etc. all are based on. There is a hge crime industry based on the selling of illegal drugs and people get killed because the threat of prosecution is always there.
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    Elite Member chartreuse's Avatar
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    now that is what i'm talking about...yay portugal!
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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    its true, wtf with tobacco and alcohol being perfectly legal etc. and pot is not.

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    Elite Member TonjaLasagna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffy View Post
    On April 3, 12:00 noon, at the Cato Institute in Washington, I'll be presenting the 50-page report I wrote for Cato, entitled Drug Decriminalization in Portugal. Following my presentation, a supporter of drug criminalization laws -- Peter Reuter[/URL], Professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Criminology -- will comment on the report (and I'll be able to comment after that), and then there will be a Q-and-A session with the audience. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Details and registration are here at Cato's site, where the event can also be watched live online (and, possibly, on C-SPAN). -- Glenn Greenwald
    My Cherry Blossom event is the day before, so i'll try & make it to your presentation. Thanks for the heads up
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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    While I do think there are people who might use the decriminalization of drugs as a buttress for drug abuse, criminal activity, etc. I think the majority of the people who use illegal drugs currently can be lumped into two categories: those who use because it's 'cool' and 'rebellious' and those who use because it's a part of their lifestyle and they're able to use it responsibly. Obviously users of some of the harder drugs like heroin and crack can't really be stratified like this, but in terms of pot that's how I see it... it would make a ton of funds available for use in other areas for crime prevention improvements, and the possibility of taxation might bring in a lot of revenue for the government. That's just how I see it. Of course you'll have the idiots who might abuse the system... I'm not failing to admit that.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonjaLasagna View Post
    My Cherry Blossom event is the day before, so i'll try & make it to your presentation. Thanks for the heads up
    Oh, it's not my presentation but Glenn Greenwald's, the author of the article. I'd attend if I could. I'll probably see if I can catch the video online.

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    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    *writes suggestion letter to local politicians*
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    Good idea, but no I don't want my cab driver on meth. I do think it should be legal for jobs to drug test, and if you use certain drugs that can harm your job performance you don't get the job, you could also be subject to "random" drug screenings. So if someone starts acting strung out you give them a drug test and suspend them.

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    I live in Massachusetts and we voted to decriminalize (not legalize) marijuana this past year. I voted in favor of decriminalization, which was not entirely an easy decision to make, given that I have 2 teenagers and I don't like drugs. (Pot smokers are the most boring people in the world, sorry to say.)

    But I hate to think of the resources being wasted on pursuing crimes involving small amounts of marijuana, and the average well off white kid who gets caught with pot fares a lot better than the poor minority kid in the same boat. In short, I voted for decriminalization of pot because what we have been doing doesn't really work.

    It was *not* easy to try to explain to my teenagers that I voted in favor of decriminalization, but that doesn't mean that I want them to smoke pot. At all. That's the part that gives me the most pause.

    We'll see if Massachusetts goes to hell in a handbasket. We've already got that gay marriage thing going on and god has not yet smote us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    ... do we really want cab drivers on meth?
    we already have cabbies who drive on meth.

    Quote Originally Posted by BBDSP View Post
    I live in Massachusetts and we voted to decriminalize (not legalize) marijuana this past year. I voted in favor of decriminalization, which was not entirely an easy decision to make, given that I have 2 teenagers and I don't like drugs. (Pot smokers are the most boring people in the world, sorry to say.)

    But I hate to think of the resources being wasted on pursuing crimes involving small amounts of marijuana, and the average well off white kid who gets caught with pot fares a lot better than the poor minority kid in the same boat. In short, I voted for decriminalization of pot because what we have been doing doesn't really work.

    It was *not* easy to try to explain to my teenagers that I voted in favor of decriminalization, but that doesn't mean that I want them to smoke pot. At all. That's the part that gives me the most pause.

    We'll see if Massachusetts goes to hell in a handbasket. We've already got that gay marriage thing going on and god has not yet smote us.
    There is totally 2 bills that wanna legalize it right now. =] =] =]
    Last edited by Tati; May 6th, 2009 at 09:22 PM.

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