Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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The Portugal Experiment

Glenn Greenwald will be presenting a paper at Cato on the effects of Portugal’s legalization of drugs (this issue makes strange bedfellows).  His conclusion?

Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

...

There is clearly a growing recognition around the world and even in the U.S. that, strictly on empirical grounds, criminalization approaches to drug usage and, especially, the “War on Drugs,” are abject failures, because they worsen the exact problems they are ostensibly intended to address.  “Strictly on empirical grounds” means excluding from the assessment:  (a) ideological questions regarding the legitimacy of imprisoning adults for consuming drugs they choose to consume; (b) the evisceration of Constitutional and civil liberties wrought by drug criminalization; and (c) the extraordinary sums of money devoted to the War on Drugs both domestically and internationally.

I look forward to this with what I call “enthusiastic skepticism”.  I’m enthusiastic to see how Portugal’s experiment has worked.  But I’m skeptical that the lessons of a small homogenous Mediterranean nation of ten million people can be applied to a large diverse sprawling union of 300 million.

Still, it would help make the case for federalizing our drugs laws—i.e., letting the states figure out what works best for them with the federal government hovering over them.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/31/09 at 07:09 PM (Discuss this in the forums)

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