Portuguese drug decriminalization

by on November 3, 2010 at 2:17 am in Economics, Law, Medicine | Permalink

Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens have written a new study:

The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance.

David N. Welton November 3, 2010 at 1:06 am

"Neighbouring Spain and *Italy*" – say what?

dearieme November 3, 2010 at 1:31 am

Nearby speakers of a Romance language without being French?

Andrew November 3, 2010 at 5:52 am

Remind me what is California good for politically? I guess they had a vote at least. And there is that big GFY on property taxes.

No Deposit Poker November 3, 2010 at 6:36 am

The issue of decriminalisation of illegal drugs is controversial, but it is rarely the subject of an analysis based on evidence. This paper studies for Portugal, a country that has decriminalised the use and possession of any illegal drug

Jeff November 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

Someone was up very late last night …

David Zetland November 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

…in other news, adults behave as adults.

Jim November 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

Few things are more tiresome than "studies" saying how great life would be if we'd just legalize heroin, other than the stoners who don't bother to read them but say how great they are nonetheless.

>>> "The problem is that it is impossible to state that any of these changes were the direct result of the decriminalization policy. "

Well then. Thanks for nothing whatsoever.

Brenton November 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm

"Few things are more tiresome than "studies" saying how great life would be if we'd just legalize heroin"

The truth is really tiresome, indeed.

Idiot November 4, 2010 at 9:14 am

"The truth is really tiresome, indeed."

>>> "The problem is that it is impossible to state that any of these changes were the direct result of the decriminalization policy. "

So, I am to conclude that this study is a lie.

Duncan20903 November 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

So Jim, how about the 2008 vote in Switzerland that saw their voters vote to keep giving legal heroin to their junkies by a margin of more than 2-1? One of the peculiarities of the Swiss is that almost 100% of eligible voters actually vote so it's simply no doubt the Swiss have decided their getting more bang for their Euro by providing free heroin to their junkies. How would you explain that away? PS the British and the Dutch also prefer to just give their junkies heroin but those countries didn't ask their citizens opinion on the matter.

An amusing (to me) thing is that heroin use is actually one of the 'successful' parts of US drug prohibition, at least when viewed in the vacuum of the number of heroin users. The Feds report that there is currently substantially less than 200,000 past month users of heroin in the US. In 1969 there were about 150,000 with the population less than half of today's number. What's the secret? Making oxycodone widely available in the black market. It seems heroin addicts prefer getting know dosage produced in an accredited lab rather than by some religious lunatic working in a cave in Afghanistan. Go figure that one out. Just remember to account for the fact that black market oxycodone is more expensive than heroin and likely requires a relationship with a quack doctor.

Other methods might prove to be fruitless, but the current 'strategy' of prohibition is a proven, epic failure of public policy. Continuing to do the same thing will produce the same results. When you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging. Those who support the failed strategy of criminalization seem to think the correct response is to hire a steam shovel to be able to dig faster and deeper. Surprisingly enough, the steam shovel leasing companies are all for that strategy.

How about we quit throwing money down the proven rathole of prohibition and see if we can't come up with something that isn't a guaranteed failure? Yeah yeah, next you're going to tell me that Chiang Kai Shek may have been a mass murdering, freedom killing authoritarian, bald faced liar but he really wasn't a total bad guy because he wiped out drug addiction in China. How do they know that he did so? Well he's given us his word! The Chinese still have a significant trade in addictive MADs, and you might also like to take their rate of DUI-alcohol into consideration. If you think having a drunk is preferable to having a heroin addict you are sorely mistaken. If you think degenerate addicts are spending their days helping elderly ladies to cross the street and singing in the church choir on Wednesday evening and Sunday morning because their favorite drug is illegal you really are just way way out in fantasy land. It is simply mind boggling that so many Know Nothings actually believe in the fairy tale that prohibition laws are keeping people sober. No my friend, they're just using drinking alcohol or sniffing model airplane glue if they can't find what they want on the black market. Both substances perfectly legal for adults to use to get high. What's that? You think there aren't people using inhalants to get high? Well don't click on this link as it might just demonstrate how silly that thought is. http://www.4poppers.com/ Yes, yes, not model airplane glue but that's pretty much the same as saying that oxycodone isn't heroin, just an argument of form over substance.

Re-legalization of heroin/other MADs does not require that we allow heroin distribution companies to set up a station on the lobby of the local elementary school so they can hand out free samples to 3rd graders in order to cultivate new customers or require that the Boy Scouts publish ads for heroin io I've never understood why the Know Nothing prohibitionists think that re-legalization has to be a free for all. There is a lot of gray area between the extremes of prohibition on one end and blanket immunity for end users and actors in the retail distribution chain. Somewhere in that gray area is the 'sweet spot' for society. But we can say with absolute certainty that the two extremes just don't work.

Did you know that since it's peak in 1963 tobacco use has declined just over 62%? Now how did they go and do that without making tobacco against the law for adults? Do me a favor and see if you can find how much, umm, well, let's say cannabis. How do the use statistics of cannabis from 1963-2006 play side by side with the tobacco statistics? No, cannabis was not invented in 1964 by an unholy alliance between the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

If you have any concern for the truth you need to do some investigative research because you're just blowing smoke up my rear with your current beliefs. Oh hey, spoeaking of blowing smoke up people's rear ends did you know that was actually a fad in the late 1700s and early 1800s? They thought you could revive a person who had drowned by using tobacco smoke in the application. No recreational swimming areas were without a smoke enema kit which they likely purchased from the Sears catalog. People certainly came up with some whacked out ideas before television was invented.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_smoke_enema

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