14 April 2011

A view from Portugal

Nuno Capaz - from the Institute for Drug Addiction of the Portuguese Ministery of Public Health has agreed that I put his reaction to an earlier post on this blog. It should be clear that what he says reflects his personal opinion and not necessarily that of his government. The following are just some key elements of a much longer response.

Fortunately, none of the UN conventions say that using drugs should be considered a crime. They say that selling, producing, etc. must be criminalised, not use, and that is the hole in the treaties through which we Portuguese "dived" to get our decriminalised system. I agree with you that the law tends not to address reality where it considers drug use as a crime. The law is meant to discourage drug use, but it doesn't. That was why Portugal changed its system, because the other one wasn't working.

What makes the Portuguese system unique is the fact that the Dissuasion Commission is not part of either the interior or justice ministry but links up dirrectly with health authorities.

I also believe that formally decriminalised systems are not more common because other countries that have gone down that road have not taken drug use out of the judicial system but have simply tried to take the notion of crime out of the equasion, leaving all the rest in place.

Drug policy in general is a danger zone for politicians. "A good drugs policy is bad politics". I do not believe the US will be on the side of those who will bring about a change, but a significant group of countries, including European ones, is needed. Demonstrating that treatment is cheaper than incarceration may work, although the prison building and management lobby in the US might disagree.

The Portuguese system is not perfect, but as Churchill might have said, it's the worst, except for all the others.


Feel free to react!


Brussels, 12 April

17:17 Posted by Carel Edwards in Drugs and politics | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook

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