Right Thinking From The Left Coast
If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Portugal Experiment

The forces favoring keeping drugs, including pot, illegal, are pushing back in a big way this ear. Rand Paul’s increasingly desperate opponent is accusing him of being soft on drugs.  The California Prop-19 battle is heating up and all right-thinking (but not Right-Thinking) people are against it.  But it might be useful to, you know, apply some data to the subject. Glenn Greenwald and the Cato Institute—now that’s an interesting marriage—have some facts on Portugal, which recently legalized drugs:

By any metric, Portugal’s drug-decriminalization scheme has been a resounding success. Drug usage in many categories has decreased in absolute terms, including for key demographic groups, like 15-to-19-year-olds. Where usage rates have increased, the increases have been modest — far less than in most other European Union nations, which continue to use a criminalization approach.

Portugal, whose drug problems were among the worst in Europe, now has the lowest usage rate for marijuana and one of the lowest for cocaine. Drug-related pathologies, including HIV transmission, hepatitis transmission and drug-related deaths, have declined significantly.

Beyond the data, Portugal’s success with decriminalization is illustrated by the absence of political agitation for a return to criminalization. As one might expect for a socially conservative and predominantly Roman Catholic country, the decriminalization proposal sparked intense controversy a decade ago.

Many politicians insisted that a vast parade of horribles would be unleashed, including massive increases in drug use among youth and the conversion of Lisbon into a “drug haven for tourists.”

But none of those scary scenarios occurred. Portuguese citizens, able to compare the out-of-control drug problems of the 1990s with the vastly improved situation now, have little desire to return to the days of criminalization. No influential politician advocates doing so

Usual caveat: the results of a small European nation can not necessarily be projected onto a big complex one. Our drugs and crime problems are a little more complex that just criminalization.  Entrenched poverty, terrible public school and a growing prison-industrial complex are major factors.  But I have yet to see convincing evidence that decriminalizing pot will make things worse.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 10/17/10 at 10:34 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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