Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Portugal -- Drug Experiment

Portugal must be a social conservative's worst nightmare.

For one, they decriminalized possession of narcotics ten years ago, increased treatment for addiction and targeted their criminal prosecution efforts solely on distribution and trafficking. [Drug Experiment, Boston.com]:
Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal’s elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
For two, the data suggests it may have worked.

But nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon’s troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized — indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
It's time we treat drug addiction as a health problem, not a criminal one.

4 comments:

The Rat said...

Tell ya what, you take the same approach to gun control and I'll support you on drug control.

Jim (Progressive Right) said...

The same approach? Sure.

Show me a jurisdiction that:

1) Had high or escalating crime rates.
2) Relaxed gun control with the aim to reduce it.
3) Saw crime rates drop.

I did it for drugs, you do it for guns.

The Rat said...

DEAL! I'll cite Florida and offer the following links containing further links to peer reviewed papers. If this is going to be a science based argument let's use the science, right?

Start here for a balanced look at papers both for and against, and here for specific arguments on concealed carry. Here is a criticism of a paper claiming "more guns, more crime".

I can keep going but I think we can make a good argument for doing exactly the same with guns as you want with drugs. Let's stop worrying about who owns guns, "hard" guns or "soft" guns, and start worrying about the criminals who commit crimes while on guns, and the criminals who import them.

Jim (Progressive Right) said...

Interesting article.

I'm not against gun ownership, BTW.