1. Its working out really well, heroin use rate is down 50%, there’s also been a sharp decline in aids sufferers, i think it’s because it became less taboo, specially since if you’re a heroin user you can go to a clinic where they will give you clean needles for free, and you can take your drugs in a safe environment.
When you get caught with small amounts of drugs all that the police CAN do is fine you and advise you to go to some specialists that tell you the harms of what you’re doing and offer free rehab, no strings attached.
People also think that that means drug dealers roam free, that’s not true, the reason i said that if you were caught with SMALL amounts they wouldn’t do much is because they focus mainly on dealers. They treat them like criminals and treat the users as patients who need treatment.
Overall, in my opinion it’s a great policy with minimal bad side effects.
2. So far, good. People have been getting treatment since they can go in a clinic and openly say what substance they’re abusing without fear. Doesn’t mean they’re legal though, just decriminalized. if you try to sell some in a back alley your ass is going down.
3. Portugal main reason to decriminalize (not legalize) drugs was mainly due to a massive problem with public health, our rates of HIV and hepatitis infections at the turn of the century were out of control, way above European average. A radical approach was needed to take control of the situation. It’s goals have been accomplished, by providing drug users with proper health care without fear of criminal charges HIV and hepatitis infections have dropped more than 90% average over the last decade, a resounding success.
Regarding drug use there was an increase up until 2007, but there has been a negative trend ever since and the prevalence of drugs at this point is actually lower than when the law was changed. Nowadays Portugal has a record number of drug users in treatment, 10% of those are cannabis users, which was not even considered a serious dependence before the change in the treatment system. So although it hasn’t been a resounding success in that department it is far from a failure and in my opinion a much better way to approach the problem.
Although I reiterate, this was a measure to to address a very serious public health issue, not to try to solve the drug abuse itself. People tend to think it’s just a liberal law that allows people to use drugs at will and that couldn’t be further away from the reality of it.
4. One of the great improvements was with AIDS. Before decriminalization needle share was the number 1 cause of contagious. It’s no longer the case because users can trade old needles for new ones, for free, no questions asked. In terms of consumption it didn’t go up, but it didn’t go down either, but people don’t end up having criminal record for exploring their own consciousness. When you are caught with cannabis you have to go to a center and talk to a psychiatrist and if you carry too much with you it becomes a crime (you are allowed something like the acceptable dose for 1 person for 1 week. Something like this, not sure of the proper numbers).
Drugs ARE NOT legal in Portugal! They are decriminalized, meaning you don’t get a criminal record if you are caught with drugs, in small quantities.
5. There is a difference in Lisbon (using the capital as an example since it’s where I am from), from per-decriminalization to post. Lisbon was a violent city in the early 90s – a lot of drug addicts in the street, homeless problems, AIDS, robberies, etc. the center of all this was this favela-like neighborhood. Since then there was definitely a reduction on most of these problems, and the aforementioned neighborhood is cleaner.
Now I doubt the interest was to focus on light drugs (mostly hash in Portugal), but the problem of heroin the country was suffering from. And here is where the decriminalization law excelled – it treats drugs addicts not as criminals but as patients.
So the first step was to clean the streets and avoid spreading AIDS. For that they built these places where heroin addicts could bring their own fix, get a clean syringe, and have a room where they could privately shoot and stay for a couple of hours, during the entire team they would be bombarded with ads for therapy, including methadone treatments. Those were free (the treatments, no the ads…I mean the ads were free anyway and, oh you get the point). Eventually the majority would sign up for these and little by little many of the most hopeless cases were cured. I personally know a lady who lived in that neighborhood from before and was an heroin addict – she now has a 15 year old daughter and nice job that can provide for her family. But back in the day, she was stealing cars in the city center, trying to jump on drunk tourists at night, and doing all she could to get a fix.
The funny thing is how, back in the day, everyone – including our current President, who strongly opposed the law – was sure this would turn Lisbon into the drug capital of Europe, but it’s almost the other way around. I remember Lisbon in the 90s – it was not the kind of place I would recommend to tourists. And now, I can get drugs more easily in London or Brussels.
6. There isn’t any real addiction in Portugal anymore and you barely see any drug related problems in the streets/news.
You have the casual marijuana bust and the wannabe Pablo Escobar that got caught, but it’s not relevant enough to be a social issue.
With that said, I remember growing up when drugs were really criminalized and the police enforced the law really harshly. We had some “bairros” or neighborhoods that were famous for the level of addicts and drug circulation.
After the new laws, the level of these neighborhoods dropped down by a lot. We still have projects, ghetto, slums in major cities, but they’re not run down by drug-users, drug lords, etc. We don’t have a war on drugs policy and our youth doesn’t have to worry that a couple of pot in his pockets is going to ruin his future forever. Same goes for adults who enjoy the occasional recreational cocaine, LSD, etc.
Lisbon got a lot cleaner after the laws decriminalizing cause most of the former addicts were finally given the FREE health attention they so desperately needed.
7. From what people in their 30-35 years tell me the result was was very positive. In my neighborhood a lot of people dropped out of high school. The illegal houses that were stopped in the middle of construction were just filled with junkie’s and robberies were common. The drama of drugs was real, and parents really feared that their kids would fell in the addiction. It was common to hear that the son or daughter of that neighbor had succumbed to the lifestyle.
This is not the case any more. Feel much safer, there are no more needles in the floor in front of pharmacies, you just don’t hear about it has often has before. This is the opinion and feeling most elders also have.
Free rehabilitation without criminalization has been the most important factor. Integrate and take care of your people, they’ll recover and become productive members of society again.