Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Portugal Effect

In 2000, faced with enormous drug abuse and addiction rates, Portugal decided as a nation to decriminalize drug use of all kinds.  Minor possession and use of drugs were no longer a criminal offense.  Police focused on cracking down on dealers instead of users.

As the sweeping reforms went into effect nine years ago, some in Portugal prepared themselves for the worst. They worried that the country would become a junkie nirvana, that many neighborhoods would soon resemble Casal Ventoso, and that tourists would come to Portugal for one reason only: to get high. “We promise sun, beaches, and any drug you like,” complained one fearful politician at the time.

So almost ten years later, how's that working out for Portugal?

Well... drug use is down, the number of addicts in treatment is way up, and drug seizures are up by almost 500%.  Not too shabby.  Maybe California was on to something.  Read the full story here.  (Via Kottke.)


  1. Too political, and it makes too much sense. I want to hear about Beyonce and Epic Beard Man!

  2. I would, but I heard Epic Beard Man got 20 years for using crack.

  3. How exactly are users measured, and what are the reasons given for why a user becomes a non-user?

    I’m all for some sort of de-criminalization for the user of pot if they really go after (maybe kill a few) the suppliers.

  4. I believe the article gets into specifics, or at least indicates where specifics can be found.

    San Francisco was gonna try something along the same lines with prostitution a few years back, but it got voted down. Basically the idea was to keep the act illegal, prosecute Johns and pimps, and allow sex workers medical treatment, counciling, a way out, etc. without fear of prosecution. I think it would've worked wonders.

  5. hey Judd,

    The pro thing sounds ok if they were required to cop to who was paying and pimping.

    What is your take on the revolution in the middle east?

  6. I agree. It would have at the very least helped prostitutes stay healthy, safe, etc.

    Regarding the various Middle East revolutions, I'm cautiously excited. Egypt's regime change was pretty amazing, but of course there's still a ton of work to do. The thing I'm really holding my breath about isn't so much the Muslim Brotherhood presence (for them to seize power it'd have to be another perfect storm like Marjorie Satrapi described in "Persepolis"), it's whether or not the military will peacefully give up control of power after the elections in the fall. That'll be the real test, I think.

    The other revolutions going on in the Middle East and North Africa are just as exciting, but as Lybia has already proven, are pretty much guarenteed not to be as cleanly-executed as Egypt. I think Egypt certainly planted a seed, but it's gonna be a while before any democratic takeovers occur in the other countries.

    What are your thoughts on the whole thing?