Decriminalizing Drugs in Portugal a Success
Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.) Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? The question is, does the new policy work? Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive.
• The Drug War