Portugal decriminalized all personal drug use eleven years ago (July 2001). More than a decade later, Portugal has gone from making criminals of some 100,000 drug using citizens, to humanely treating 40,000 for drug addiction. The result of this 11-year experiment has been to cut drug abuse rates in half.
This flies in the face of a favorite canard of prohibitionists when arguing against drug decriminalization or any reform – that decriminalizing drugs will lead to more drug use and abuse, and then more crime and associated problems. The past decade in Portugal demonstrates this is simply not the case.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction told reporters at a press conference, discussing the latest figures on drug addiction.
Decriminalizing drugs is not legalizing drugs. People found by police to be in possession of small, personal use amounts of drugs, any drugs including heroin and cocaine, are not jailed. They are though brought before a panel of experts comprised of a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker, for an evaluation to determine if they are casual users or addicts in need of treatment.
According to statistics, drug use rates are far below the European average, and just half that of neighboring Spain, notes a European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction report.
By any standards, the decriminalizing of all drugs in Portugal for the past 11 years has shown what really can and should happen if the US were to implement sane, humane policies concerning drug use and abuse, and end its reliance on war tactics and terminologies when taking on the issue of drug addiction.