When people think of “legalizing” drug use, they think of Europe, most popularly The Netherlands, but The Netherlands doesn’t necessarily have Europe’s most lax drug laws. That distinction may well belong to Portugal. Ten years ago Portugal made the decision to change its stance against drugs, “decriminalize” possession of all drugs in many cases, and treat addicts instead of incarcerate them.
The result has been just the opposite of what conservative and Christian leaders warn: the result has been a dramatic decline in drug addiction. Forbes reported already last summer:
Drug warriors often contend that drug use would skyrocket if we were to legalize or decriminalize drugs in the United States. Fortunately, we have a real-world example of the actual effects of ending the violent, expensive War on Drugs and replacing it with a system of treatment for problem users and addicts.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked. . . .
The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.
“This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies.”
Many of these innovative treatment procedures would not have emerged if addicts had continued to be arrested and locked up rather than treated by medical experts and psychologists.
The net result as indicated by statistics has been an modest increase in reported drug use in general, but a large decrease in problematic addiction, decrease in usage among adolescents, decrease in burden on the legal justice system, decrease in street value of drugs.
See my followup on the powerful lobbies that fight to keep drugs illegal in America, despite the destructive effects on the war on drugs. You’ll be surprised what powerful lobbies team up for this front.