Monday, April 13, 2009

Portugal finds drug decriminalization works!

Scientific American has an article up, here, about Portugal's five year experience with decriminalizing all formerly illegal drugs. Short answer, all good.

"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.

Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what's known as a "Dissuasion Commission," an administrative body created by the 2001 law.

But the results are much more positive than the article indicates. Glenn Greenwald also talks about Portugal's success here.
For every drug that was in use since 2001 -- every one -- absolute drug usage rates declined in the five years following decriminalization, and that occurred as drug usage rates in most other EU member-states was increasing, often severely.

We here in the United States are bankrupting ourselves with the money used to house non-violent drug users. For example, California spends 9 Billion dollars annually on prisons (with a recidivism rate of 70%! You learn how to be an even better criminal in prison, who would have thunk?)
The Pew Center report reveals that, nationwide, corrections spending outpaces funding for education, transportation and public assistance.

Not to mention our fourth amendment rights, which have atropied to close-to-noexistence due to the aforementioned drug war. And (there's always an 'and'), people in the US caught with drugs often then have their lives thrown away even after they've done their time; yet another casualty of the drug war.

Additionally, (one does get tired of 'and' occasionally) let's not even talk about the growing problem of the spillover violence from Mexican drug cartels that would disappear instantly (for all practical purposes)if drugs were legal--see our own dalliance with alcohol prohibition for support.

So, decriminalizing drugs would lead to less addicts, less money burned up in the prison system and less violence. Any possibility we'd implement this? I'm guessing Naaaaah.

1 comment:

Steve said...

There are two articles in Sunday's Washington Post you might find interesting as well discussing mostly California's experiment with decriminalizing pot.

I've been saying this for years, Just Say No to the War on Drugs!