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JayB

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal

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"Drug Decriminalization in Portugal:

Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies

 

by Glenn Greenwald"

 

...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.

 

Report: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080

Podcast: http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=5887

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In other news

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124225891527617397.html

 

"The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

 

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

 

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country.""

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Another move by the Obama administration that I'm happy with.

 

I'll never be completely happy so long as I have to choose between voting for the party of creationism on one hand, and protectionism on the other - but I'll take what I can get where I can get it.

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That's great. No jail for drug users. :tup:

 

Now, how to take market away from violent criminals without letting the Big Money sell HeroWin and Coca-Cola -1,000 to your kids.

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That's great. No jail for drug users. :tup:

 

Now, how to take market away from violent criminals without letting the Big Money sell HeroWin and Coca-Cola -1,000 to your kids.

 

Is this the public-(exept-me)-as-hapless-pawn-of-marketers meme again? It's consistent with a certain political perspective, but the scenario you're invoking seems at least as far fetched as some of the pandora's-box-of-licentiousness-and-vice hypotheticals that I've heard conjured up whenever the subject of legalizing marijuana comes up.

 

 

There's been a massive decline in smoking, which seemed to be well underway before most of the restrictions on smoking and advertising cigarettes were in place, so it's not clear to me the public is always incapable of making choices about addictive substances that are at odds with the motives of the people selling them.

 

Having said that, there was a time in this country when opiates, cocaine, etc were branded and sold, and you could even order your herioin + syringe straight from the Sears catalog. That did correspond with the most extensive opiate addiction in this country's history (so far as I know), and spawned no small amount of personal misery both for the addicts and anyone who suffered as a direct and indirect consequence of their addiction.

 

Pretty much every aspect of the current drug policy represents a worse state of affairs - from my fringe perspective on personal liberties, to the social and criminal consequences at home and abroad. On all of these fronts, I also think it's considerably worse than what we'd get in a situation where society is bombarded with messages about the desirability of a particular brand of crack, and adults are free to buy and consume as much of it as they wish in their own homes or in private businesses.

 

People like to have sex and modify their consciousness's with various chemicals. The sooner we stop lying to ourselves about the kind of people we are and modify our laws to decriminalize all manifestations of the above drives that take place in private settings, the better IMO.

 

Hell - at least they'd be selling real chemical compounds that produce real physiological effects, which is considerably more honest and ethical than the entire system of commerce behind the entirely legal business of, say, homeopathy, but that's a separate discussion.

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Decriminalization reduces the priority of drug enforcement to free up resources for other areas of policing. That seems relatively palatable to folks who might otherwise be opposed to legalization. However, with legalization, the State can seek to harness drug use as a source of tax revenue through regulation. But then, if the State profits from addiction does that make the State immoral?

 

In the overall scheme of things, decriminalization and/or legalization merely displaces the social problems of drug abuse from the criminal justice system over to the medical system. Will the socioeconomic cost actually be less when the displacement occurs? Maybe the actual social cost will not be reduced. However, the assumption is that in an open society individuals can make a free choice.

 

I’d rather that other issues be addressed such as asset forfeiture laws, no-knock warrants, the justification for the militarization of domestic law enforcement, etc. Here, in the War on Drugs (as also in the GWOT) expediency takes precedence over due process, so extrajudicial processes are executed to pursue and subdue what are perceived to be the bad guys.

 

I suspect the general public would err in the favor of law enforcement to have unfettered use of necessary tools to do their job though in the equation of liberty versus security you cannot rightly expect both. But I question our perception of the beneficent role of the State since it may be complicit in helping to create the situation as it presently stands, for example, our high incarceration rate. I’d rather that we examine the State than blame our essential liberties, our freedom itself.

 

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with the bricks of Religion.

--William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

 

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There's been a massive decline in smoking, which seemed to be well underway before most of the restrictions on smoking and advertising cigarettes were in place, so it's not clear to me the public is always incapable of making choices about addictive substances that are at odds with the motives of the people selling them.

 

The current wholy irrational attitude towards the pyschoactive substance known as nicotine is hardly a shiny example of the power of the masses. Currently people who'll get drunk and stoned on a daily basis irrationaly view nicotine as a third rail. Coupled with the smoking decline postdating the large public health anti-smoking campaigns and non=freemarket restrictions on where you could smoke and you've the perfect 20th century phenomena. Born of mass production and marketing and dead by alternate marketing.

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The current wholy irrational attitude towards the pyschoactive substance known as nicotine is hardly a shiny example of the power of the masses. Currently people who'll get drunk and stoned on a daily basis irrationaly view nicotine as a third rail. Coupled with the smoking decline postdating the large public health anti-smoking campaigns and non=freemarket restrictions on where you could smoke and you've the perfect 20th century phenomena. Born of mass production and marketing and dead by alternate marketing.

 

Actually, not many people really care that much about the nicotine, but rather all the other toxic carcinogenic crap that it comes bundled with. If cigarettes only delivered nicotine, they'd probably be viewed much the same way we view beer and wine. But the nicotine is the least of the problems with cigarettes.

 

It's kinda like drunk driving: all our energies are focussed on eliminating drunk drivers, but it isn't really the drunk driver that kills you - it's the car he's driving.

Edited by murraysovereign

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Actually, not many people really care that much about the nicotine, but rather all the other toxic carcinogenic crap that it comes bundled with. If cigarettes only delivered nicotine, they'd probably be viewed much the same way we view beer and wine. But the nicotine is the least of the problems with cigarettes.

 

It's kinda like drunk driving: all our energies are focussed on eliminating drunk drivers, but it isn't really the drunk driver that kills you - it's the car he's driving.

 

Way to make my point about tobacco hating hippies. Now care to tell me about all the carcinogenic crap that's in a joint?

 

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I've lost three long-time friends to lung cancer, none of whom ever smoked anything but weed. Two other friends, also non-tobacco users but dope smokers, have both survived lung cancer, one with surgery to remove a small portion of lung, the other by a bone-marrow transplant. And two others in the same non-tobacco stoner category are currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Praying they'll make it.

 

I don't know what the specific carcinogenic elements are in marijuana, but 7 out of 7 coming down with lung cancer is a pretty clear sign to me that smoking anything is not good for you. I used weed for a short time (about 6 months) in the late 60's, noticed that it seemed to be affecting my wind, and quit so that it wouldn't compromise climbing and other athletic activities. Quit using tobacco (I smoked a pipe) at the same time, have never smoked anything since. So far so good.

 

 

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I've lost three long-time friends to lung cancer, none of whom ever smoked anything but weed. Two other friends, also non-tobacco users but dope smokers, have both survived lung cancer, one with surgery to remove a small portion of lung, the other by a bone-marrow transplant. And two others in the same non-tobacco stoner category are currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Praying they'll make it.

 

I don't know what the specific carcinogenic elements are in marijuana, but 7 out of 7 coming down with lung cancer is a pretty clear sign to me that smoking anything is not good for you. I used weed for a short time (about 6 months) in the late 60's, noticed that it seemed to be affecting my wind, and quit so that it wouldn't compromise climbing and other athletic activities. Quit using tobacco (I smoked a pipe) at the same time, have never smoked anything since. So far so good.

 

Sorry to see that Mtnguide, and good to see you voluntarily CHOOSE your health, but should your friends have been rounded up and jailed for this personal choice then?

 

I don't have an answer to any of it except that locking up honest and honorable people and/or making them chose to break the law isn't working very well on many levels. I agree that some people shouldn't be smoking out, getting blotto, and operating a vehicle for sure (ME! for instance). However: we have strong laws for driving while impaired already.

 

 

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I have two reservations regarding a free market in all drugs.

 

I think it is difficult to predict what would happen if the extremely gratifying and addictive drugs were as legal and as freely available as alcohol and tobacco. But I speculate that usage would increase significantly in that case, particularly among young people, and that it could be some time before society would develop the narcotic responsibility that such a freedom would require. What happens in the meantime?

 

The second reservation is specifically in regard to the marketing of drugs, which would naturally occur in any free market. Particularly, high-powered manipulative and misleading marketing toward the same people (children included) who are the now very ill product of the highly lucrative "value-added" food and beverage industry. If a booming business can be built around keeping a 20 oz coke in your hand for "refreshment" and a bacon double quarter pounder with cheese in your face for "good eats", then I loathe to see what they can do with crack. (Kids' "cereal" being bad enough already.)

 

As for smoking, it is alive and well, perhaps even thriving.

 

Having voiced my concerns, I ultimately agree with the loftier ideal that personal liberties should be maximized within pre-existing social framework, and that it should not be the government's right to try to protect people from themselves. On a long time horizon society will cope with drugs in one way or another. That is the easy part. The more important question is what we should do to get there and how, and these practical matters are never so simple.

 

There are also geopolitical issues, such as the US government's apparent need to manipulate and oppress the source countries for many of these drugs. Also certain international problems could be ameliorated by a reduced demand for imports, and one way to do that would be to allow enough (well-regulated) domestic production to supply our own demand.

 

So yes, there are clear benefits, both philosophical and practical to legalization, but they have to outweigh the drawbacks, even temporary ones, and it has to be done in a responsible and controlled/regulated manner. So please if you will take this opportunity to educate me as to the some of the better thought out proposals, as I'm sure that they must exist.

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isn't the morale of the original post that, post-decriminalization, drugs haven't sucked portugal into the pit of hell?

 

it sounds like you assume that mass marketing of drugs would be legal - why? alcohol and tobacco advertising are pretty seriously limited already, and perhaps should be limited further.

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As I understand it, the Portugese have decriminalized personal posession and personal use, but trafficking is still illegal. So, no, MacDonald's isn't marketing crack along with the Big Macs and Super-sized Cokes and Jumbo Fries, and won't be.

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I have two reservations regarding a free market in all drugs.

 

I think it is difficult to predict what would happen if the extremely gratifying and addictive drugs were as legal and as freely available as alcohol and tobacco. But I speculate that usage would increase significantly in that case, particularly among young people, and that it could be some time before society would develop the narcotic responsibility that such a freedom would require. What happens in the meantime?

 

The second reservation is specifically in regard to the marketing of drugs, which would naturally occur in any free market. Particularly, high-powered manipulative and misleading marketing toward the same people (children included) who are the now very ill product of the highly lucrative "value-added" food and beverage industry. If a booming business can be built around keeping a 20 oz coke in your hand for "refreshment" and a bacon double quarter pounder with cheese in your face for "good eats", then I loathe to see what they can do with crack. (Kids' "cereal" being bad enough already.)

 

As for smoking, it is alive and well, perhaps even thriving.

 

Having voiced my concerns, I ultimately agree with the loftier ideal that personal liberties should be maximized within pre-existing social framework, and that it should not be the government's right to try to protect people from themselves. On a long time horizon society will cope with drugs in one way or another. That is the easy part. The more important question is what we should do to get there and how, and these practical matters are never so simple.

 

There are also geopolitical issues, such as the US government's apparent need to manipulate and oppress the source countries for many of these drugs. Also certain international problems could be ameliorated by a reduced demand for imports, and one way to do that would be to allow enough (well-regulated) domestic production to supply our own demand.

 

So yes, there are clear benefits, both philosophical and practical to legalization, but they have to outweigh the drawbacks, even temporary ones, and it has to be done in a responsible and controlled/regulated manner. So please if you will take this opportunity to educate me as to the some of the better thought out proposals, as I'm sure that they must exist.

 

I think that starting with legalized marijuana sold under very restricted circumstances and seeing how it goes is the best that anyone can realistically hope for in practice.

 

When it comes to principle, I'm not sure that protecting people from the harm that they may or may not inflict on themselves constitutes a legitimate argument for criminalizing things that adults do to themselves or other consenting adults (note that this is not an argument about enforcing rules that govern where, when, or under what circumstances it's legal to consume or be under the influence of drugs) . Seems like you'd have a pretty compelling argument for confiscating all of the climbing gear in the country and outlawing climbing if it were. I'm not sure that you can make a logically consistent case for keeping climbing legal if you want to keep the consumption of cocaine, etc illegal on that basis.

 

It probably goes without saying that I don't lose much sleep worrying about the sale and marketing of fast/processed food - but I do wonder how a fellow like yourself accounts for the rise of Whole Foods and all of the other assorted organica, micro-brews vs mega-brews, etc in light of the concerns that you've posted above. Are there any limits to the model of consumer-as-hapless-naif that might mitigate against adults that aren't in the habbit of using drugs from doing so if they were marketed like anything else? Any other factors - from religious to rational to cultural - that might stand in the way of ADM enslaving mankind with Crankies brand cereal?

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dammit, and I was secretly really hoping this could rescue American business and the stock market

 

Better yet - we should invade another country and force them to open their markets to our drugs!

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I'm not sure that you can make a logically consistent case for keeping climbing legal if you want to keep the consumption of cocaine, etc illegal on that basis.
But there is a critical difference between keeping something legal, and legalizing something, even disregarding the nature of the subjects. A "laissez-faire" mentality sounds perfectly fine for something that is already an equilibrated aspect of society, but I am wary of the inductive argument that this must also be the best way to liberate a currently restricted behavior. When deliberately changing conditions 'we' probably have a responsibility to buffer the inhumanities of the transition to this greater freedom. Of course nobody here is advocating instant deregulation of drug legalities and markets, but it is obviously more interesting to find something to argue about.

 

Also, as much as social darwinism offers a perfectly cruel and simple solution to problems like overeating and addiction, I'm not convinced that it's the best that we can do. And I find it particularly unsettling that the selective pressures that are weeding people out at present are not natural circumstances but rather highly engineered industries by which a few disproportionately wealthy deceitfully prey on their own society. Society may be perpetually ill because this is a necessary side-effect of (largely) private profits.

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Is this the public-(exept-me)-as-hapless-pawn-of-marketers meme again? It's consistent with a certain political perspective, but the scenario you're invoking seems at least as far fetched

 

Noting that the obscene amount of money spent every year in commercial propaganda leads to sales is "farfetched"? Apparently, you didn't go to business school.

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