Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Portugal Decriminalized All Drugs; Drug Use Dropped

As of this week, it's been one year since the Cato Institute published its land report "Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies," authored by Glenn Greenwald. The report examines eight years of Portugal's drug policy: decriminalization of possession of all substances.

Here in America, last week the Providence Journal (the news source of record for the state of Rhode Island) took a related stance. The editorial board called for, not decriminalization, but taxation and regulation of all substances. The editorial argues, "Even if legalization were to increase drug use, that risk is overshadowed by the benefits. Crime would drop in our streets as dealers lose their livelihood, and users don’t have to rob others to support their habit. Governments can regulate the drugs for purity and collect taxes on their sale."

However, the Cato report found that Portugal's total decriminalization actually led to declines both in drug usage rates and in HIV infection rates. People found in possession of drugs are sent to a panel of a psychologist, a social worker, and a legal adviser to consider treatment and rehabilitation options. For the short version, read the TIME Magazine summary. This usage decline suggests that the public safety and economic benefits of drug policy reform would not merely offset harms of any increase in drug use, but rather, represent independent public policy gains.


Hadar Aviram said...

Thanks for this, Jesse! How different is the Portuguese drug market from the U.S. one, and in particular, the CA one?

Luke Whyte said...

Thanks for this, it was a very interesting read.

Just wanted to let you know that we linked out to this entry from the first edition of our new Leadership eNews at

You can see how we framed it here:

The Leadership eNews goes out to about 28,000 correctional professionals in the U.S. and Canada.

Thanks again,
Luke Whyte, C1 Editor