Posts Tagged sanity

Decriminalizing Drugs Works

Our current drug policy is the worst of all worlds – it punishes the people who need treatment, radicalizes the suppliers, wastes resources and time, ruins lives and crowds our jails.

That said, I read with interest a post at Ed Brayton’s place, quoting from a study by Glenn Greenwald concerning Portugal‘s experiment with decriminalizing drugs (yes, from that Glenn Greenwald and freaking Cato).

Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal’s decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists” — has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

And here is the money quote:

The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.

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