by David Hewson
Recently, the government of Portugal revealed that 10 years after it had decriminalized all drugs in 2001, drug abuse had reduced by half. It was a heartening validation for those of us against the drug war, and the news got plenty of press coverage, including an article in Forbes.
But how exactly does this system work? If drugs aren't fully legalized, but drug users aren't criminals, then what is the government's role, exactly?
This video clip should answer some of these questions. The speaker, Nuno Capaz, works for one of the governments drug commissions, and he talks (in very candid terms) about how things work.
Here's the link: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20469537/highlight/244293
Some of my favourite quotes from his 20-min presentation:
On how the government decided on decriminalization:
"Quite frankly, for me, one of the reasons our drug policy actually works, is that the government decided to take all the expert's recommendations and pass them into law...they said, 'if these guys are the experts, we're not gonna say they're wrong and to do other things that they don't say to do.'"
On funding addiction treatment programs:
"The government pays at least 80-100% of the treatment programs...and it's still cheaper than jail. It might not work, but at least we know that in jail, it won't work at all. At least in treatment they have a chance."
On the inherent problems with the criminal system:
"Normally, a court tends to be a coercive structure. And normally, drug users don't tend to do well with coercive structures."
On the importance of being fast:
"We do a lot of networking...if we have a drug addict that wants to go to treatment, we can refer them that day...if we say you can go there 15 days from now, he will not stop using drugs for those 15 days, and it won't work."
On use vs. abuse:
"A huge majority of users do not have a problem with using. It's pretty much like alcohol. A lot of people here today drink alcohol regularly, and most of you don't have a problem with it."
On their approach to their work:
"We are not there to give more problems to drug users...we try to give them solutions to solve their problems."
I thought the guy made a lot of sense. What do you think?