Lessons from Portugal on the implimentation of a fair and effective drugs law…

Mark Thompson, of Mark Reckons, is everywhere these days. The Reading-based Lib Dem blogger has a piece on Canabis NI blog, looking at the effects of liberalisation of the drugs law in Portugal…

…drug use in Portugal has not risen in the last 8 years. In fact it has fallen, by around 10%. This might seem counter-intuitive but proponents of reform of drug laws have been saying for years that rise and fall in the use of drugs is largely independent of the legislative situation.

Not only that, but also:

…use by teenagers of every type of drug measured has also fallen (see here). This is remarkable as usually when one type of drug use falls, another increases as they are affected by societal trends.


Perhaps the most important result of this trial though is how HIV infections and drug deaths have been reduced. The following quote from Mark Easton’s report is by Paula Vale de Andrade who is involved with an organisation who try to help heroin addicts:

When drug use was a crime, people were afraid to engage with the teams. But since decriminalisation, they know the police won’t be involved and they come forward. It has been a great improvement.

Portugal is a strange mix of ultra conservative Catholicism, and what remains of the radicalism of the Carnation revolution of 1974, which oversaw a significant re-purposing of the Salazar built educational system… Yet it is the only EU member state with a law explicitly declaring drugs to be “decriminalised.”

Could it happen here? Well, attempts to liberalise the alcohol laws along more liberal, southern European lines regularly meets with a huge critical backlash. It also would not do to expect that UK (or Irish) health and criminal policies are routinely formed on the basis of strong empircal data.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty