Portugal was the first country to legalize the possession of minor amounts of narcotics, and the consequences have been beneficial. Anyone arrested in Portugal with any form of narcotic for personal usage will not be imprisoned.
Numerous other countries have followed suit by legalizing some form of drug use, most notably Switzerland and Germany who both decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001.
The United States is one of only two countries (the other being China) that still maintain a fully prohibitionist drug policy. However, several states have taken it upon themselves to legalize certain forms of medical marijuana use. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to do so on a full statewide level. This decision has had significant effects on both crime and health in the state.
Drug legalization is also being considered in several other states such as California, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Generally speaking, countries that have legalized drugs have done so because they find them to be issues that need to be dealt with rather than one of law enforcement vs. drugs. These countries tend to have lower rates of incarceration, less violence due to drug trafficking, and fewer deaths due to drug use than those that still maintain a fully prohibitionist stance.
Portugal is well-known for decriminalizing all illicit narcotics in 2001, thus altering the legal status of cannabis. People frequently misinterpret drug decriminalization. Most people mistakenly assume that all drugs are legal in Portugal, which is not the truth. Drugs remain illegal under Portuguese law, they're just not criminal offenses anymore. That means people can still be arrested for drug possession, but there is no jail time attached to these charges.
Decriminalization means that someone who possesses small quantities of drugs for personal use will not face criminal charges or penalties from their employer. It does not imply approval of drug use. In fact, drugs remain illegal in Portugal and people who work with drugs or help users find ways to obtain them could still be charged with a crime.
The main goal of decriminalizing drugs was to reduce negative effects such as addiction and violence by removing the financial incentives behind drug trafficking and use. Also, criminals who prey on addicts will have less ammunition to use against their victims. Finally, it gives police and prosecutors time to find other ways to combat crime and improve community safety.
After much debate and political compromise, Portugal's Parliament passed legislation in June 2001 to decriminalize all drugs. The new law allows people to possess small amounts of drugs for personal use, but it does not change the status of drugs under national law.
Many people look to Portugal as a model for the United States to follow when it comes to dealing with illegal substances. However, Portugal's experience is frequently misconstrued. Although it decriminalized the use of all illegal narcotics in small amounts, including heroin and cocaine, in 2001, this is not the same as making them lawful. Still, Portugal has had great success with its drug policy, which focuses on treating addiction as a health issue rather than a crime.
Portugal's drug usage rates are relatively low compared with other European countries. In 2001, only 0.7% of adults reported using marijuana in the previous month. Just over 1% used cocaine. There are two main reasons for this. First, most Portuguese people believe that drugs are harmful, so they don't want to be around people who use them. Second, because drug use is not legal, many people feel uncomfortable talking about it even among friends, so it tends to be rare.
Portugal's drug policy does not include any sort of prohibition against existing drugs. Instead, it aims to reduce harm by providing treatment for addicts and preventing them from using drugs in the first place. The country also has one of the highest percentages of opioid users in Europe, but fewer people die from overdoses than expected given the high rate of abuse.
Although Portugal has reduced its use of drugs over time, it is not free from their effects.
Rblfmr/Shutterstock Over 25 nations, including Portugal, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Germany, have decriminalized narcotics to some extent. In 2001, these countries formed a group known as the "European Union Drug Policy Network" (EU DPN). The network publishes a report on drug policy every few years, the most recent being called "Re-thinking Drugs: Policies beyond Punishment and Prevention." The report's authors concluded that "decriminalization provides one option for moving away from a punitive approach." They also said that "legalization could be used as a tool for regulation and control."
In addition to the EU DPN, several other groups have published reports calling for changes to drug policy. One of them is the International Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. This group of experts was co-chaired by Sir David Cameron and Sir Robert Mackey and included top scientists from around the world. Another group that has published papers supporting decriminalization is the Global Commission on Drug Policy. This commission was founded in 1995 by President Nelson Mandela and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
As a result, Spain has never seen a decriminalization process that resulted from a political choice; drug use and possession of tiny amounts have always been free of criminal consequences, and so Spain has a decriminalization policy in the literal sense of the word. The main effect of this policy is to treat drug use as a public health issue instead of a crime.
Decriminalization means that the mere fact of possessing or using drugs does not constitute a crime. It does not mean that the government ceases to punish conduct associated with drug abuse. To understand how the system works, it's important to know that punishment for drug-related crimes falls under the authority of each of the Spanish regions. There is no national police force so local authorities can decide what role they want to play in fighting drugs. Some places may even choose to offer treatment options instead of jail time.
In 1992, after more than a decade of efforts by politicians to reduce drug usage by increasing penalties, prison overcrowding and budget cuts had become problems for many prisons. At that point, several parties came together to propose a new law: la ley del consenso. This consensus law abolished imprisonment as a punishment for simple possession of drugs. From then on, people could be jailed only if they committed another crime while under the influence of drugs. The goal was to prevent repeated offenses by taking addiction services into account when sentencing defendants.