Now We Know: Decriminalization DOES Cut Drug Use


Ten years ago, Portugal took the unprecedented step of decriminalizing all drugs. One decade after this much derided experiment, drug abuse is down by half.  Street drug related deaths from overdoses and the rate of HIV cases have crashed.

Instead of jail, the ‘evidence based’ policy dictates drug treatment for users. Treatment funding came from money saved on enforcement.

Drug use has dropped so much that, proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

John Stossel spoke to a chief police inspector in Lisbon who was very dubious about decriminalization at first. But now he’s a convert. He told Stossel, “the level of conflicts on the street are reduced … drug related robberies are reduced … and now police are not the enemies of the consumers.”

Businessman Richard Branson, part of the Global Commission on Drug policy, recently argued in support of Portugal’s policy having seen it working on a visit:

We’ve studied the war on drugs and try to look at the best approach. The war on drugs has obviously patently failed.

Why punish the young? The way I’d like to talk to a politician, if it was your son… would you recommend prison? And none of them would.

A number of Latin American countries, ravaged by the ‘drug war,’ are talking about decriminalization. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is amongst those openly contemplating the legalization of the use and transportation of narcotics.

“Latin American citizens and government leaders are openly protesting a model where their nations pay in blood and lives to fill U.S. defense contractors’ pockets and spread the Pentagon’s global reach — with few, if any, positive results,” wrote Laura Carlsen, the director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program for the Center for International Policy.

“A real discussion on effective strategies has to include the option of legalization.”

But they are getting strong blowback from the Obama Administration. Vice President Joe Biden was dispatched to the region early March with the message that “there are more problems with legalization than with non-legalization.”

Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Democracy Now that the decriminalization debate can “no longer be suppressed.”

AMY GOODMAN: Eric Holder, the attorney general, has put out this light-hearted plea for another year of — another season of – ‘The Wire’, which is the well-known HBO series, very critical of the war on drugs. And David Simon, its creator, said, if they will end the drug war, or change the drug war. President Obama, it’s known as one of his favorite series, ‘The Wire’, yet ‘The Wire’s message is that the war on drugs has failed.

ETHAN NADELMANN: You know, there’s a disconnect in the American drug war. There’s a disconnect between — in the minds of Holder and Obama and others. They’re afraid of what would happen if they touch this issue and the Republicans go after them. But ultimately, some leadership is required. And the message of ‘The Wire’ and David Simon’s message is: this misery is going to continue until we change the fundamental strategy.

Watch Democracy Now report on drug decriminalization moves in Latin America:

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Indiana GOP Withdraws Drug Testing Bill Because Lawmakers Would Be Tested Too!

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Cops Fired For Beliefs About Marijuana


Cheri L.
Cheri L7 years ago

My niece is a heroin addict and my best friend turned into a crack head but I still advocate this legalization. I really appreciate the statistics shown here. People think there is somethng special about the US but this could be us. You would think we would have learned somethng from prohibition. I'm sure that many people who are getting paid well for the war on drugs don't want their ox gored for treatment programs but they will just have to retrain like everyone else.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G7 years ago

So... whats holding it?

Past Member 7 years ago

When that '1 dope dealer or a school buddies giving them their first try', I suppose you would want to throw your children in jail and condemn them to life with a criminal record?
Carrie, you can kill every dope dealer that comes along, and they'll be 2 or 3 to replace him because of the motive of massive profits. What causes those massive profits? PROHIBITION!


Past Member 7 years ago

Try reading the article Carrie. If you did then you must not want to reduce drug use. Or maybe you just can't understand how legalization, regulation and control would LOWER drug use. Is that not the ultimate goal?

Carrie H.
Carrie H7 years ago

pt 1 Marijuana is harmless and should be made legal for over 21 crowds, as far as the rest, as a parent my only real job in life is to protect my children. Kids are curious and a drug dealers play ground, you can teach them to say no but it only takes 1 dope dealer or a school buddies giving them their first try. Drugs make you feel good a high you don’t get naturally and people without hard lives enjoy them.

Carrie H.
Carrie H7 years ago

This is what is so dangerous about them, you would not say legalize beatings with a baseball bat. Reality is a person heals from broken bones. Drug additions good luck most won’t heal and those that do it takes years. I don’t want to see drugs legal, as a parent I would like to see dealers face much harsher sentences or death. I have made it clear anyone that offers my kids drugs will die, a friend or just the corner dealer. They are a direct threat to my child’s life, I don’t care if they are redeemable or not. I will sit in prison knowing my child and others children are safe from at least one dealer. That is the way parents need to start looking at drugs. You kid heals from broken bones will they heal from a drug addiction. I would go so far as to call to make it legal to kill drug dealers because they threaten kids’ lives.

Jose M. C.
JOSE M. C7 years ago

As much as I'm on board with the idea of legalization, I can also understand why it's so hard for many to accept. This requires law officials and politicians to face a boogeyman that they've been terrified of all of their lives. So in this case I hope Mexico and other countries heavily burdened by the cartels can lead the way (with Portugal at the very front, of course). In time our leaders will see more results and follow suit. Of course, they'll all claim they were believers all along, but that for whatever reason their hands were tied, but that's the way it's always been.

KS Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Past Member 7 years ago

And who lobbies to keep Cannabis Hemp,marijuana, illegal and keep this planet in a perpetual war against a plant that would threaten their bottom line profits? A plant that could go a long way in saving this planet and put an end to untold suffering.

Why is Big Pharma against legal cannabis?

Big Alcohol?

Big Tobacco?

Big Prison/Law Enforcement?

These institutions are the ones we should be calling out, along with our Elected Representatives for protecting them, for perpetuating this unjust, insane and unholy war on humanity.