Portugal's Drug Experience: Decrim Was a Success
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Portugal's Drug Experience: Decrim Was a Success
Posted by CN Staff on November 23, 2010 at 07:33:42 PT
By Maia Szalavitz
Source: Time
World -- From the perspective of drug warriors, the criminal laws against drug possession are all that protect Americans from a deluge of drugs, an orgy of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine use that would kill children, destroy productivity and basically leave America a smoking hulk of wasteland populated by brain-dead zombies.For example, one opponent of marijuana decriminalization wrote in a 2009 forum in the New York Times that the policy would lead to "hundreds of billions of dollars in new medical-care costs, traffic and other accident costs, reduced worker productivity and lower educational achievements."
But new research on Portugal's drug policy suggests that this isn't necessarily so. Portugal decriminalized possession of all drugs in 2001. The outcome, after nearly a decade, according to a study published in the November issue of the British Journal of Criminology: less teen drug use, fewer HIV infections, fewer AIDS cases and more drugs seized by law enforcement. Adult drug use rates did slightly increase  but this increase was not greater than that seen in nearby countries that did not change their drug policies. The use of drugs by injection declined.Of course, there's no way of knowing which, if any, of these changes were caused by the change in policy  without a control group, this kind of research cannot determine cause and and effect. But Portugal started with one of the lowest rates of drug use in Europe  far lower than American rates  and remains below the EU average. For example, 19% of 15-to-16-year-olds in Europe in general have tried marijuana at least once, compared with 13% of Portuguese people that age. The figure for U.S. high school sophomores is 32%."The most important direct effect was a reduction in the use of criminal justice resources targeted at vulnerable drug users," says Alex Stevens, professor of criminal justice at the U.K.'s University of Kent, who co-authored the study. "Before, a large number of people were being arrested and punished for drug use alone. They saved themselves a lot of money and stopped inflicting so much harm on people through the criminal justice system. There were other trends since drugs were decriminalized in 2001, but they are less easy to attribute directly to decriminalization."Under Portugal's decriminalization policy, users are not arrested but referred by the police to a "dissuasion" commission. The commission is made up of three people, typically an attorney, a social worker and a medical professional. It determines whether the person is addicted  if so, they can be referred to treatment or given specific penalties like being banned from a particular neighborhood or losing a driver's license. Treatment is not forced, however, and those who are not addicted are often not sanctioned in any way. Only about 5% to 6% of users are brought before such commissions a second time in the same year.Stevens says the positive changes in HIV/AIDS rates and a decline in opioid-related deaths are probably more linked with an expansion of treatment than with decriminalization alone. The number of users in treatment increased by 41%  going from 23,654 to 38,532 between 1998 and 2008. "Releasing funds from [enforcement] allows you to spend more on treatment," says Stevens.The changes in teen drug use were complex: throughout Europe, teen drug use rose sharply during the period in which Portugal decriminalized and then fell  the same trend was seen in Portugal but the fall was steeper.Mark Kleiman, director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA and author of When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment, is skeptical that Portugal's policy holds any lessons for the U.S. other than that the "U.S. and UN look silly for getting hysterical," about Portugal's move. "The bottom line [is that] no clear disaster resulted from decriminalization."Stevens concurs. "The main claim we make is that decriminalization did not lead to the kinds of disaster that were anticipated by opponents," he says.In the debate over California's marijuana legalization initiative, little attention was paid to the fact that Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana  a relaxation of state drug law that would have been much more controversial had the state not faced the possibility that voters would support full legalization of sales as well as possession. Eleven other states have also decriminalized  though this does not always prevent the arrest of users for possession.With 1.5 million Americans being arrested each year for simple drug possession  40% of them for marijuana  Portugal's experience raises the question of whether arresting users is a cost-effective use of taxpayer money. Billions of dollars are spent each year on enforcement of drug possession laws and that enforcement is notoriously racially biased  if ceasing to arrest users for possession has essentially no effect, is this really a good way to spend scarce money?Source: Time Magazine (US)Author:  Maia SzalavitzPublished: November 23, 2010Copyright: 2010 Time Inc.Contact: letters time.comWebsite: Justice Archives
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Comment #6 posted by DrDunkleosteus on November 23, 2010 at 17:36:47 PT:
Sam Adams
Yea... then the supermarket...
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on November 23, 2010 at 17:10:39 PT
TSA contact 
Here's the official complaint form for the TSA: I'm willing to accept a slight amount of risk flying in order to travel "unmolested" about the country. 40,000 people are killed on the roads every year, yet they're not cracking down on that form of terror.You know if the people submit & let the govt get away with this the next phase will be regular gropings & xrays at the borders as well.
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Comment #4 posted by afterburner on November 23, 2010 at 11:09:12 PT
Thanks for the Tip, Sam. I Will Do Likewise ASAP
Having outsourced most of the well-paying jobs and turned the USA into a third world country, US-based federally-chartered corporations have sold out their own country and its people. Shame on you, corporate America! Your god, money, will fail you in your race to despoil the planet and enslave or eliminate its people. So, parents, you want your children raised by the Federal government in an environment filled with hard-core murderers, rapists, perverts, thieves, and iv drug users? Isn't that communism? Give your head a shake. So, cops, with your lobbying to continue cannabis prohibition, you want to have more criminals? And you think that's good for society, families and individuals? LEAP does not agree with you.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on November 23, 2010 at 10:08:48 PT
That forum mentioned in paragraph 2.
May 22, 2009, 11:49 AM
What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? A Freakonomics Quorum
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on November 23, 2010 at 09:51:27 PT
I will never fly again. 
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on November 23, 2010 at 09:07:58 PT
TSA madness
Is anyone else following the story with air travel & the TSA? Right now to get on a US flight you have to submit to xrays that give you a dose of radiation (supposed to be a low dose but it's being adminstered by people with NO medical training), or a "pat-down" that includes grabbing men's genitals and women's breasts - every time.I just sent this to 5 airlines and my 3 Congressmen saying I won't fly again until this is repealed, I urged them to outlaw the TSA.the video is of TSA agents basically strip searching a 5 year old kid:
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