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Decriminalization is a Huge Success in Portugal

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On Friday, I had the opportunity to hear Glenn Greenwald speak at the Cato Institute regarding his Cato-sponsored report, Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies. You can read the report here and Cato also has a downloadable MP3 of the event.

The back-story here is that Portugal implemented an across-the-board drug decriminalization policy back in 2001. There's been very little discussion and research regarding its impact, hence Cato recruited Greenwald (a genius and extremely popular political blogger) to study Portuguese drug policy. His findings thoroughly illustrate the efficiency of decriminalization towards addressing key drug policy goals, while refuting the myth that removing harsh penalties will lead to increased consumption.

The whole thing utterly shatters most, if not all, arguments that continue to be advanced in support of tough drug laws here in the U.S. and around the world. I found a couple points particularly interesting:

1. When Portugal began looking at alternative policies to address  a growing drug problem, they did not consider legalization because it was determined that such a policy would violate international treaties. It's a small country that can't afford to be belligerant. This just goes to show, once again, the extent to which prohibition is not a consensus policy at the international level, but rather an idealogical approach that less powerful nations have been forced to accept.

2. The decision to implement a decriminalization policy emerged through discussion of empirical data, rather than emotional arguments about morals, civil liberties and so forth. I don't know how representative this is of what approach would be most effective in establishing more reasonable policies here in the U.S., but it's certainly worth taking a look at the context in which decriminalization triumphed over other policy options.

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it has been all about money and control

I cannot believe that the criminalization of marijuana had anything to do with the saftey and wellbeing of U.S. citizens and the history supports my opinion. Seems like someone is drinking the koolaid here.

It feel silly to repeat the work of Jack Herer in this comment box and I really recommend it and am a bit surprized that his work is not better known here. The timber industry (as in celulose pulp) represented by Hearst, the petro-chemical industry represented by DuPont and Anslinger pushed it through to protect their financial interests. Read "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" and become informed.

Now you have big pharma with a well developed vested interest in keeping it illegal and the police state using it to exercise selective enforcement to pursecute minorities. If it is decriminalized it will only be because they have met their goals and figured out how to make even more money with it being taxed.

The drug policy goal has been well served by the profit and political advantage to the financial elites. Consumption has exploded under that policy providing a gold mine of economic support to local cops across the country that count on federal drug war money for their new gear, new radios, new cars and general militarization. The prison industry would not be as profitable as it is without it.

If you want a change in the laws, show them the money.


Not to be a jerk, but I've already read The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and I'm comfortable assuming that most people (if not everyone) reading these comments has too. We're already well-informed with regards to everything you wrote.

I've also read this piece titled "Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy Theory" intelligently challenging the part of your comment with respect to why marijuana prohibition was put into effect:

"If you want a change in the laws, show them the money."

I say show everyone the liberty.

Power obviously does not exist without the liberty to exercise it. Whether paying the rent or buying a Gulfstream G650, money is used to buy liberty. One can even consider the role liberty plays in religion (e.g. freeing one's mind in search of enlightenment, or the absence of liberty in hell). Liberty is an individual's greatest incentive, because it defines the extent of that individual's freewill.

The unalienable right to liberty is optimal liberty in a civilized society, and it saddens me to see so many people ignoring that certainty. Drug prohibition unjustly opposes that right from which our Constitution is derived (the Supreme Court outrageously connects drug prohibition to the Commerce Clause). The last thing any American prohibitionist (no matter how powerful) wants to publicly say is they oppose that unalienable right.

I hope the day comes soon when that last thing becomes reality under intense pressure by powerful members of the mainstream media, members under pressure themselves to restore the credibility the Internet has helped them lose by clearly exposing their bias despite the journalism code of ethics.

We need a Science-based Drug Interdiction Act

As long as many cities feel it is their duty to arrest drug users, then they are obligated to prove its impact on licit and illicit drug use through student drug use surveys, testing raw sewage, etc. If a city can afford to arrest and prosecute tens of thousands of drug users each year, then they can afford to survey and prove their approach is working. I can tell you that there is a huge gap in the level of enforcement between poor minority and rich communities while the difference in drug use rates are minimal. It's time to embarass these cities and show their dirty laundry to the world. Everybody should push their state legislature to require all cities in their state to participate in a uniform survey.


Open up the "Gateway" to intelligent governance. Our responsibility as drug law reformers is to insure our elected officials are fully informed on the various European models that have been successful in reducing the criminal penalties for recreational drug users. We must especially point out how the statistics have shown that in places where severe penalties such as incarceration were removed or in countries where outright legalization has taken effect that there has been no measurable increase in the number of individuals engaging in drug consumtion as "ass"umed by our nations dwindling pool of "Big Tough Drug Warriors". Peace out my fellow citizens and I Ieave now to engage in a little civil disobedience along side my trusty & thick lipped Angelina Bonglee. signed Joe the Pipeworker Ron Paul 2012

This should be all over the news!

Thank you so much Stop the Drug War for attending this event and covering it. I can't say I'm amazed at the results as this should be expected -- legalization is ultimately the way to go, but decriminalization has it's benefits too. The report is very well done. I listened to the podcast, too, and can't wait for the video. To think this isn't being covered ad nauseam by every major news organization in the U.S. is just so disappointing.

- Mary

Scientific American Coverage


I managed to find coverage in Scientific American -- just came out! See:

5 Years After: Portugal's Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results

End the Drug War,


Lessons from Portugal and Holland

The assumption that a liberalized drug policy will cause a drug pandemic of the type allegedly created by opium use in 19th century China has just received the next 10-penny nail in its venerable coffin.

Drug statistics in Portugal and Holland demonstrate that in today’s world drug use is strictly a lifestyle choice.  In other words, some people want to play golf, and some don’t.  Some see life as endless toil and submission to the Man, and others don’t.  For cultural, professional, personal and medical reasons, illicit drug use appeals to some, but not to others.

Drug use doesn’t increase with the introduction of liberalized drug laws because too many freethinking citizens have already made a conscious decision to use certain drugs by the time the law loosens its grip.  The fact that these people followed their own muse, despite false warnings and draconian drug penalties, means that prohibition is absolutely ineffective.  As to what is effective: drug use is demonstrably reduced when its forbidden-fruit factor is removed.

An economically parasitic tribe of true believers will continue to cling to their anti-drug ideology while refusing to believe their own eyes regarding the harm reducing effects of the liberal drug policies found in The Netherlands and Portugal.  The drug culture that the prohibitionists sought to contain or eliminate by employing medieval methods of social control has acted to spotlight the prohibitionist culture as the most aberrant and socially threatening culture of them all.  The threats posed by these violent, bigoted, know-nothing temperance fanatics deserve our fullest attention, both now and once drug prohibition is repealed.  The worm has turned.


Selective robbery is a 'success'?

Decriminalizing cannabis is like decriminalizing homosexuality...

Hyper-incrementalist bullshit.

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