It is once again time for the European Cup, the European soccer tournament held every four years. Last time, host government Holland used an innovative strategy to attempt to reduce violence among rowdy fans, or hooligans as they are called: reduce alcohol availability while increasing the availability of marijuana (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/141/hooligans.shtml). Last week, police authorities in Portugal, this year's host country, announced a similar approach. They will not arrest British soccer fans spotted pot-smoking because the drug reduces violent urges, they told the British newspaper the Guardian.
Under Portuguese law, drug possession is not a criminal offense, but public consumption is. Lisbon police, however, said they would turn a blind eye to marijuana use and instead focus their enforcement efforts on reducing alcohol consumption, which has been directly and repeatedly implicated in the violence that has plagued European soccer for the past two decades.
"If you are quietly smoking and a police officer is 10 meters away, what's the big risk in your behavior?" a police spokeswoman told the Guardian. "I'm not going to tap you on the shoulder and ask 'What are you smoking?' if you are posing no menace to others. Our priority is alcohol."
"If people are drinking they lose control," said Alan Buffry, national coordinator of Britain's Legalise Cannabis Alliance (http://www.lca-uk.org). "If they smoke cannabis they don't. Alcohol makes fans fight. But cannabis smokers will be shaking hands and singing along together."
It seemed to be working Sunday afternoon, as an estimated 15,000 people partied peacefully in the Rossio, Lisbon's town square, before the match between England and France, where authorities feared trouble could break out. But not all was stoned bliss. Authorities reported Thursday that 34 hooligans -- one Dutchman and 33 Brits -- had agreed to be deported after being arrested for fighting with police in the southern town of Albufeira. Maybe the Portuguese police should ensure that more of the heavily narcotizing indica strains hit the street.