Portugal's successful drug policy attracts the attention of the U.S

Discussion in 'Marijuana Legalization' started by DutchX5, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. Portugal's drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons - Yahoo! News

    Very interesting article. It makes a lot of sense, really. When you're caught with drugs, instead of sending you to prison, they send you to mandatory treatment. The approach apparently has decreased addiction and helped a lot of bad areas recover.

    This doesn't really have to do with weed, but it's still interesting nonetheless.
  2. Huh... so besides the addiction treatment, I supposed that makes getting caught with drugs kind of like speeding in the US. You won't go to jail, but... oops, now you have to spend your next couple of Saturdays at a class. Not worth getting caught because it cuts into your money and time.
  3. Yes, but I would venture to say that most drug users that get caught and go to jail, probably use the drugs again when they get out. But under this policy, they have to go to mandatory treatment.

    But I get what you're saying. I'd be pretty pissed if I got caught with weed and had to go to "treatment" where they feed me lies and tell me that I'm addicted and I'm gonna die if I don't stop.

    My view of it is that the U.S should adopt Portugal's policy when it comes to hard drugs, but weed should be just as legal as alcohol.
  4. Learning lessons, ignoring lessons, and running away from them

    The Portugal experiment in drug policy has been a critical and important laboratory demonstrating two huge points in the drug policy debate:

    1. tough enforcement (with all its destruction) isn't somehow magically preventing an even larger drug problem than we have today (this is the completely unsupported argument that prohibitionists use to oppose trying anything other than strict prohibition)
    2. smarter approaches to drug policy can actually work to reduce harm, save lives, save money, and more.
    The story was broken in a huge way by Glenn Greenwald, in his outstanding white paper for the Cato Institute: Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies (downloadable for free) in April, 2009. The report, while given a lot of play on the internet, was fairly thoroughly ignored in most of the mainstream media.

    This week that changed, with a large piece by Barry Hatton and Martha Mendoza with the Associated Press: Portugal's drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons. It's a pretty good piece, with accompanying video, about the Portugal experiment, plus other innovative approaches around the world, including the Switzerland heroin maintenance program, the harm maintenance programs in Canada, and drug courts in the U.S. Inexcusably, however (yet typically for mainstream media), they fail to even mention Greenwald's white paper.

    Regardless, it's good to see this getting some good coverage.
    One of the things the piece mentioned was that Drug Czar Kerlikowske went to Portugal in September to see it for himself. They also mentioned that Kerlikowske was publicly trying to distance himself from the “drug war” language.

    Well, this was just a little too close to an endorsement of something other than prohibition for the czar, so we quickly found this correction from the AP in the Washington Post:
    In a Dec. 26 story, The Associated Press reported that the United States is studying drug reforms in Portugal, and that White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal to learn about its experience with decriminalizing drugs. The story should have made clear that Kerlikowske does not think Portugal's approach is right for the United States.
    Running away from good lessons. We don't even dare talk about it unless someone gets the idea that something other than strict prohibition can be a possibility.

    It's also interesting that if we point out an outright provable lie that the drug czar has gotten the press to print, there's no interest in printing a correction, but let the Drug Czar think that something in an article might lead people to believe that he'd be open-minded and a correction is posted within hours. Pete Guither
  5. I have done some study of Portugal's approach for a uni essay i had to write, and i can certainly say that their approach has been very successful in its aim of "reducing drug abuse and usage"

    The number of reported cases of HIV and Aids amongst drug uses has fallen, and the critics claims that portugal would turn into a centre for drug tourism with skyrocketing youth usage rates have been proven completely false. To the contrary, there has been no adverse affect on drug usage rates, with usage rates amongst key youth demographics falling.

    This is wrong.

    they can't order mandatory treatment, but they can suspend charges for those who volunteer for treatment, which is what typically happens.
    its really much more lenient than you make out.

    This is basically how it works:

    If someone is caught with drugs they are issued a citation and asked to attend a commission hearing*, This commission has a variety of powers depending on whether the user has any prior offenses and whether they are deemed to be addicted. For those who are deemed to be non addicted consumers of drugs with no prior offenses the commission is mandated to provisionally suspend proceedings. Otherwise, the commission has the power to order the payment of small fines (between 25 euro and the national minimum wage, which i think means 475 euro), or simply issue a warning for those not deemed to be addicts. In practice fines are seen as a last resort, as seen by the fact that83% of cases in 2005 were dismissed with no charge. And even for those deemed to be addicts, fines can be suspended for those who volunteer for treatment (which is generally how it works)

    In theory,other punishments are also available for those who are deemed to be addicts, such suspending their right to work in certain professions (such as doctor, lawyer, taxi driver), banning them from associating with certain people, or visiting certain places (certain nightclubs)

    btw. all of this applies only to possession and usage, drug trafficking is still prosecuted as a criminal offense. as a result the portuguese approach doesn't solve all the problems of having a black market, and is therefore not my ideal approach, however its certainly one of the best approaches that currently exist in the world

    * the commission is not court of law, it is intended to be a much more informal setting and is someone appointed by the ministry of justice (with a legal background, and two people appointed jointly by the ministry of health and the governments coordinator of drug policy (who usually have medical or social services backgrounds (such as a social workers etc.) It is meant to make a decision based on what is best for the user/addict, not to decide on a punishment. Also, violations of a commissions rulings are not themselves infractions of law, so they are not very enforceable

    disclaimer: i skimmed over some old work to write this, but some of it is from memory so im not 100% of every bit of it. but i think its generally correct.

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