On Friday I attended Glenn Greenwald‘s presentation of his report, “Drug Decriminalization in Portugal,” at the Cato Institute. Greenwald studied how Portugal’s policy of decriminalizing the personal possession of all drugs in 2001 has fared. Portugal’s policy has been a “resounding success.”
Decriminalization is dismissed out of hand by those that consider drugs a moral issue, but prohibitionists that stoop to debate argue decriminalization will bring a “parade of horrors.” Some of these are that usage and addiction rates will explode, more children will do drugs, and decriminalized areas will become drug tourist havens that will spread addiction throughout the world.
None of these things have occurred in Portugal. Instead a massive amount of financial resources have been freed up to provide treatment to those that want it. In addition, more of the population has been willing to take advantage of government-supplied treatment now that there is no fear of criminal ramifications.
These results are unsurprising to those that understand how exaggerated the evils are surrounding “hard” drugs. On average, criminalization prevents responsible and conscientious people from using drugs – the exact population that can handle the freedom sensibly.
Note: Greenwald pointed out that the Portuguese commission had considered legalization but believed it could not legalize without violating international treaty obligations. (These treaties are enforced by zealous drug-war states like the United States.) He added that small countries like Portugal actually have to follow international treaties.
1. Glenn Greenwald, “Drug Decriminalization in Portugal,” (2009). LINK