Last Sunday, Portugal won their first ever European Cup football championship. Led by the world’s best, Ronaldo, the team overcame a few stumbles in the group stages to defeat France in a hard-fought final. So, with Portugal (and weed) on our minds, let’s take a look at the nation’s victories 16 years after total drug decriminalization.
1. A 10 day supply
Portugal allows folks to possess up to a ten day supply of all drugs. This means that you can legally carry 25 grams of cannabis at all times. To some, this may sound like a small amount. But to most of the world, this is a sought after privilege.
2. Portugal embraced the problem
Portugal treats drug users as addicts, instead of criminals like many other nations. Dr. Joao Goulao, Portugal’s drug czar, feels that the system favors recovery rather than suppression. In a recent interview about the legal process in Portugal he said,
If police catch someone doing cocaine, for example, the person is issued a summons to appear before the ‘Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction’. You are evaluated by a social worker, a psychiatrist and an attorney. They look at the history of your consumption. Are you an occasional or recreational user, or are you an addict? Then you are offered treatment. It’s not compulsory. But you are registered in a system and tracked if you are caught again using drugs. You may, in some cases, be issued a fine.
3. Defeating disease
Since Portugal decriminalized drugs, including heroin, HIV rates have dropped tremendously. People who are caught using drugs intravenously are not treated as criminals but as addicts. They are given medical care and rehabilitation services that are proving successful.
Officials estimated that in the late 90’s, nearly 100,000 Portuguese were heroin users. Now, it is estimated that there are no more than 50,000 heroin users in the country. Officials say that the majority of these users are enrolled in treatment.
5. Law enforcement
Law enforcement officials are now able to go after the drug traffickers rather than street level users. As a result, violent crime rates are down, and prisons are less crowded.
Portugal is setting a stable example for nations looking to decriminalize drugs. Despite recent economic struggles (an issue that leads to drug use) in the European Union, Portuguese addiction and overdose rates have remained low. Canada is considering similar decriminalization and has been consulting with Portugal in preparations.
As the nation flies high on their recent Euro Cup victory, I am sure they are (responsibly) partying their asses off. Fortunately, for those celebrating with marijuana, there is little chance of any repercussions.
What do you think about Portugal’s drug decriminalization experiment? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.