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  • Jeffrey V. Scherer, Esq.

Addiction & Drug Decriminalization: Debate over Portuguese Drug Policies


I came across an interesting discussion given by British writer and journalist, Johann Eduard Hari, in a recent TED Talks seminar (Link provided below). Mr. Hari discusses the nature of addiction and questions accepted beliefs as to how to deal with drug related problems based on a new way of looking at drug addiction. The seminar focuses in part on Portugal's decriminlizing the possession of all illicit drugs for personal use (including heroin and cocaine) following the passage of Law 30/2000 in July 2001. The concept is not new, although the implementation of decriminazation in Portugal has lead to some debate as to the impact of decriminalization.

In a report from the CATO Institute, the conclusion presented that "the data show[ed] that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portugeuse decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Wihtin this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world." http://www.cato.org/publications/white-paper/drug-decriminalization-portugal-lessons-creating-fair-successful-drug-policies. However, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy questions the evidence relied upon by the CATO institute stating that the report "does not present sufficient evidence to support claims regarding causal effects of Portugal's drug policy on usage rates..." https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/ondcp-fact-sheets/drug-decriminalization-in-portugal-challenges-and-limitations.

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