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Thread: The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

  1. #16
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Wednesday April 8, 2009 09:22 EDT
    More on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

    Last Friday at the Cato Institute, I presented my study on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal. I wrote about how and why I worked on this report here, and the report itself is available to read or download here. At Friday's event, I presented the report's findings in a 30-minute presentation; a long-time skeptic of drug decriminalization -- University of Maryland Criminology Professor Peter Reuter of the School of Public Policy -- commented on the report; I then responded to his commentary, and that was followed by a question-and-answer session. The video of the full event is now online here.

    Whatever else is true, the empirical evidence leaves no doubt that Portuguese decriminalization has been a resounding success, so much so that even Professor Reuter conceded that decriminalization achieved its policy goals and produced none of the bad results which decriminalization opponents warned about. Scientific America's Brian Vastag attended the Cato event and then wrote this article:
    Peter Reuter, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says he's skeptical decriminalization was the sole reason drug use slid in Portugal, noting that another factor, especially among teens, was a global decline in marijuana use. By the same token, he notes that critics were wrong in their warnings that decriminalizing drugs would make Lisbon a drug mecca.

    "Drug decriminalization did reach its primary goal in Portugal,"
    of reducing the health consequences of drug use, he says, "and did not lead to Lisbon becoming a drug tourist destination."

    Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working." He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle-borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, "because it smacks of legalization.". . . .

    A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office's new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.
    There are also articles on the report from Raw Story's Rachel Oswald (here); CAP's Campus Progress' Jesse Singal (here); Marijuana Policy Project's Dan Bernath (here); and Stop the Drug War's Scott Morgan (here). Other large publications -- including Time -- assigned a reporter to cover this event and it's likely there will be additional articles.

    As the above-excerpted passage from Scientific America demonstrates, there are few debates driven by as much rank irrationality as those over drug policy. Thus, we have emphatic acknowledgments that decriminalization has been a resounding success -- it has enabled the Portuguese to manage what had been their out-of-control drug crises of the 1990s far better than virtually every other country that continues to criminalize drug usage -- combined with ongoing opposition to that successful policy (along with the U.S. Government's steadfast refusal even to comment on the success of decriminalization in Portugal). That is the very definition of irrationality.

    Just consider these three tables from the study, the first of which compares absolute drug usage rates for the 16-18 age group in Portugal between 2001 (the last year of criminalization) and 2006 (five years after decriminalization began) (click on images to enlarge):


    For every drug that was in use since 2001 -- every one -- absolute drug usage rates declined in the five years following decriminalization, and that occurred as drug usage rates in most other EU member-states was increasing, often severely.

    These two charts show how Portugal -- after it decriminalized -- compares to other EU nations (all of which still criminalize and many of which criminalize harshly) for general population usage rates for cocaine and cannabis respectively (based on data compiled by the central EU drug data monitoring agency):

    Prior to decriminalization -- throughout the 1990s -- Portugal had among the worst drug crises in the EU, if not the worst. The more they criminalized, the worse the problems became. After decriminalization, Portugal has among the best drug usage rates both within the EU and outisde of the EU (especially when compared to the harshest criminalized countries, such as the U.S. and Great Britain). Those are just facts.

    The central myth which shields our failed drug laws from challenge and scrutiny is that decriminalization or legalization will cause an explosion of increased drug use. That is patently false. A much stronger argument can be made that the exact opposite is true: that by eliminating the barriers of fear which criminalization imposes between the government and the citizenry, and by freeing up the vast resources which criminalization squanders on arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment and instead devoting those resources to treatment, harm-reduction and education programs, few things are more effective in reducing drug-related problems than decriminalization, and nothing exacerbates those problems more than criminalization. Once that proposition is widely understood -- and the evidence for it is close to irrefutable -- the central propaganda pillar on which the drug war rests will be gutted.

    -- Glenn Greenwald
    More on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

  2. #17
    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crumpet View Post
    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.
    True. But at the same time, I'm not totally convinced that legalizing drugs will necessarily reduce crime and violence.

    One thing I've heard discussed is to legalize narcotics via doctor prescription. Really, how many dope fiends go to the doctor for a prescription in the first place? Does that sound like a viable alternative?

    Even if drugs are legal the regulations, taxation, and all sort of other things can jack up the price or make access to it just as hard as if it is illegal. I doubt legalizing drugs means one can go to their nearest connection and buy what they want. It's still going to be regulated right?

    Just doesn't seem as simple as things may appear.

  3. #18
    Elite Member Soth's Avatar
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    Watch this if you get the opportunity.

    The War on Drugs has become the longest and most costly war in American history, the question has become, how much more can the country endure? Inspired by the death of four family members from "legal drugs" Texas filmmaker Kevin Booth sets out to discover why the Drug War has become such a big failure. Three and a half years in the making the film follows gang members, former DEA agents, CIA officers, narcotics officers, judges, politicians, prisoners and celebrities. Most notably the film befriends Freeway Ricky Ross; the man many accuse for starting the Crack epidemic, who after being arrested realized his cocaine source was working for the CIA. AMERICAN DRUG WAR "the last white hope" shows how money, power and greed have corrupted not just dope fiends but an entire government. More importantly, it shows what can be done about it. This is not some 'pro-drug' stoner film, but a collection of expert testimonials from the ground troops on the front lines of the drug war, the ones who are fighting it and the ones who are living it.

    Interviews with Ron Paul, Tommy Chong, Jello Biafra, Ralph Nader, and many more.

    American Drug War: The Last White Hope (2007)
    I'm using a lot of oxygen and such — I think it's good use of oxygen myself, but of course, I'm a little prejudiced on the matter.

  4. #19
    Silver Member oltifreakinbaby's Avatar
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    I don't mind if they decriminalize marijuana, but all drugs?

    That just seems too dangerous. It makes it too accessible. And I'm sorry, but I can't take somebody who's on hardcore drugs seriously.

    Quote Originally Posted by celeb_2006 View Post
    True. But at the same time, I'm not totally convinced that legalizing drugs will necessarily reduce crime and violence.

    One thing I've heard discussed is to legalize narcotics via doctor prescription. Really, how many dope fiends go to the doctor for a prescription in the first place? Does that sound like a viable alternative?

    Even if drugs are legal the regulations, taxation, and all sort of other things can jack up the price or make access to it just as hard as if it is illegal. I doubt legalizing drugs means one can go to their nearest connection and buy what they want. It's still going to be regulated right?

    Just doesn't seem as simple as things may appear.

    I work in a pharmacy, and you'd be surprised how many people come in with fake scripts. Whenever somebody "new to the neighborhood" comes in for a narcotic and wants to pay cash for it (and has no insurance), we automatically say no. And to tell you the truth, a lot of the time, you can just TELL when someone looks seedy. Idk maybe it's because I've gotten used to them.

    There's a reason narcotic drugs are so regulated. It's for the safety of the people, not because the government wants to be mean.
    Last edited by Tati; May 6th, 2009 at 09:24 PM.

  5. #20
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oltifreakinbaby View Post
    I don't mind if they decriminalize marijuana, but all drugs?

    That just seems too dangerous. It makes it too accessible. And I'm sorry, but I can't take somebody who's on hardcore drugs seriously.
    Decriminalization doesn't = legalization. It can make it easier for those seeking treatment because then they don't have to worry about becoming criminals.

  6. #21
    Silver Member oltifreakinbaby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffy View Post
    Decriminalization doesn't = legalization. It can make it easier for those seeking treatment because then they don't have to worry about becoming criminals.
    Well, if you make something not punishable by law, it's basically legal. Are they going to put limits on how much drugs you can consume? And try to regulate it?

    Idk I've always held the belief that drugs are bad (and I don't mean weed. I don't do it, but it seems harmless to me). They aren't healthy (well neither is alcohol or smoking), and I'm sorry but I wouldn't be able to trust somebody on drugs. Do I really want my babysitter on cocaine?

  7. #22
    Elite Member lurkur's Avatar
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    I just saw a news report that Arnold encouraged "opening the debate" to legalizing, or at least decriminalizing and taxing in California. Seems like now is the time, and it's long overdue! Imagine if Prohibition was still in effect! What a wasteful joke that would be.

  8. #23
    Elite Member Soth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oltifreakinbaby View Post
    Well, if you make something not punishable by law, it's basically legal. Are they going to put limits on how much drugs you can consume? And try to regulate it?

    Idk I've always held the belief that drugs are bad (and I don't mean weed. I don't do it, but it seems harmless to me). They aren't healthy (well neither is alcohol or smoking), and I'm sorry but I wouldn't be able to trust somebody on drugs. Do I really want my babysitter on cocaine?
    That was the the kind of rhetoric I expected this debate to fall screaming into.

    Wont someone think of the children?

    Step one. Regulate.
    Step two. Educate.
    Step three. Remove the stigma of usage (ie, make it boring)
    Step four. Tax the shit out of it.
    Step five. Go after the Kingpins with stupidly excessive fines, and jail time.
    Step six. Ostracise people that overuse drugs as you would anyone that used any legal drugs in excess or use them at work / while driving /operating machenery, etc
    Step seven. Eat 19 Snickers bars and pat the cat raw while making cooing noises
    I'm using a lot of oxygen and such — I think it's good use of oxygen myself, but of course, I'm a little prejudiced on the matter.

  9. #24
    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oltifreakinbaby View Post
    I don't mind if they decriminalize marijuana, but all drugs?

    That just seems too dangerous. It makes it too accessible. And I'm sorry, but I can't take somebody who's on hardcore drugs seriously.
    I agree. Weed, ok. But cocaine, meth, heroin? No way.

  10. #25
    Elite Member Soth's Avatar
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    Its just such a radical departure from the "norm" that its hard to say if it wouldnt work or would - but the bottom line is that there are currently over a million non violent drug offenders in US jails which are privatised. Meaning that their stock prices will go up the more prisoners are incarcerated. The US currently spends around 30 Billion Dollars on the War against Drugs, while holding up Dictators in regions of the world that allow the free run of opiates into the country, and have a vested interest in locking up people with (and I shit you not, 11c worth of coke) and making money from the prisons.

    The Cocaine, Meth, and heroin stigma - the crack houses, the gang wars, shootings. That would be gone.

    Ive never lived in a world without drug prohibition, but I'll tell you first hand The bad guys are making more, The government departments are getting bigger budgets, and the casual or sometime user is going to jail more regularly. So whatever is happening now - its not working to stem the tide.
    I'm using a lot of oxygen and such — I think it's good use of oxygen myself, but of course, I'm a little prejudiced on the matter.

  11. #26
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oltifreakinbaby View Post
    Well, if you make something not punishable by law, it's basically legal. Are they going to put limits on how much drugs you can consume? And try to regulate it?

    Idk I've always held the belief that drugs are bad (and I don't mean weed. I don't do it, but it seems harmless to me). They aren't healthy (well neither is alcohol or smoking), and I'm sorry but I wouldn't be able to trust somebody on drugs. Do I really want my babysitter on cocaine?
    And your babysitter can't be on cocaine when it's illegal? You're babysitter could become drunk off his/her ass and alcohol is legal. Decriminalization doesn't mean that you have to hire people under the influence. It means that those caught with drugs in their possession do not become criminals and being caught possessing drugs is turned into an administrative manner, not a punitive, criminal one. Selling drugs in Portugal is still illegal. Drug trafficking is still an international crime. Nothing has changed that. But Portugal made the decision to stop imprisoning its own citizens for possessing and using drugs, not selling. This has made it easier for those seeking treatment to get it since 1) there's more money available for it now and 2) they don't have to worry about becoming criminals if their drug use is found out.

  12. #27
    Elite Member Soth's Avatar
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    If I buy drugs = bad



    I"ll Just go to the bottle shop then.......that cant be an issue

    Fucking seriously

    And Fluffy
    Last edited by Soth; May 6th, 2009 at 12:02 PM.
    I'm using a lot of oxygen and such — I think it's good use of oxygen myself, but of course, I'm a little prejudiced on the matter.

  13. #28
    Elite Member chartreuse's Avatar
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    great posts, fluffy!
    white, black, puerto rican/everybody just a freakin'/good times were rollin'.


  14. #29
    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    just trying to channel my inner Glenn Greenwald!

  15. #30
    Elite Member lalala's Avatar
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    Someone should tell Glenn Greenwald that Norway is not part of the EU (I know it's a detail but it makes its graphs look sloppy)

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