Portugal celebrates 10 years drug decriminalisation, NZ fights another losing battle in the War on Drugs

Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalised all recreational drugs. Drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself remained legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions were deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and were removed completely from the criminal jurisdiction. Drug trafficking continued to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

The proponents of the War on Drugs predicted rampant increases in drug usage among the young and the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists”.

The actual results proved to be very different.  Resources were moved from the criminal prosecution of drug users to providing support and rehabilitation to people with drug dependency problems. Judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalisation framework has been a resounding success. Drug use of all kinds declined in Portugal.  Lifetime drug use among seventh to ninth graders fell from 14.01% to 10.6%.  Lifetime heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.  HIV infection rates among drug users fell by 17%, while drug related deaths were reduced by more than half.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand we enact another silly law in the escalation of the War on Drugs, including forcing people with a cold or flu to spread their illness around in a doctor’s waiting room if they want to obtain pseudoephedrine, the most effective symptom reliever.

Green MP Kevin Hague made an excellent speech in opposition to the Bill:

Surely it is time legislators from other Parties took a similar evidence-based approach.

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4 thoughts on “Portugal celebrates 10 years drug decriminalisation, NZ fights another losing battle in the War on Drugs

  1. I’m not a partaker of dope smoking but have heard of doctors, dentists, police, lawyers, the odd judge and rubbish collectors enjoying a puff or two.. Whether it’s right or wrong is beyond me but in the grand scheme of things it very much appears to be that the law enforcement agencies are fighting an up hill battle as the smoke engulfs them causing many to fall into a state of the utmost joy and serenity. Ooh something smells nice, wonder what it is?

  2. I’m not a partaker of dope – gave it away over 20 years ago – or any other illegal drugs either Glen. But I am annoyed that if I’m blocked up with a heavy head cold I’ll have to go to my GP if I want the medication that gives me the most relief from the symptoms.

    And I am annoyed that our legislators keep adding more and more planks to a policy that is so obviously failing to achieve its supposed goal of minimising harm from drugs.

  3. Pseudoephedrine is one of the most effective ingredients in over-the-counter medications for cold and ‘flu – products like sudafed have been around for decades, keeping people who need to be ‘on the job’ going while mild symptoms are banished. (Has helped the odd parent cope with being ‘fluey and housebound with their sick children, too.)
    Won’t do anything but mask symptoms if you get a bacterial infection on top of the viral one, but for most ‘flu sufferers that isn’t a problem. It’s also an ingredient in a few cough syrups for adults (not recommended for kids) and would cause a major headache if Pharmacies had to move all the stock to their prescription lockup.
    Interesting that the Phamacists Association, their professional body, submitted against that clause in the Bill! They’re not usually regarded as a bunch of radicals when it comes to drug legislation.

    I can’t actually tolerate the stuff any more; so I can vouch for the fact that ‘flu remedies without pseudoephedrine are
    1) hard to come by
    2) sold in organics or health food shops
    3) very expensive by comparison
    4) take longer to clear up symptoms and promote recovery from the viral infection.

    Not something your average stressed out ‘flu sufferer needs to have to deal with on top of everything else.

  4. Pingback: Is the War on Drugs part of a conspiracy?- Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know « News Worldwide

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