Absolving drug users from arrest and prosecution for drug use and preparatory acts like acquisition, simple possession or cultivation for personal use does not lead to increased drug use, but does significantly lower pressure on law enforcement agencies and on the judicial and penitentiary systems, and it removes barriers for users with problematic patterns of use to approach treatment and harm reduction services.

  • A resounding success or a disastrous failure

    Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs
    Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes & Alex Stevens
    Drug and Alcohol Review, 31, 101–113
    January 2012

    Two observers and scholars of the 2001 Portuguese drug policy reform consider divergent accounts of the reform which viewed it as a ‘resounding success’ or a ‘disastrous failure’. Acknowledging from their own experience the inherent difficulties in studying drug law reform, Caitlin Hughes and Alex Stevens take the central competing claims of the protagonists and consider them against the available data.They remind us of the way all sides of the drug policy debates call upon and alternatively use or misuse ‘evidence’ to feed into discussions of the worth, efficacy and desirability of different illicit drug policies.In doing so they provide pause for thought for those of us who operate as drug policy researchers and drug policy advocates.

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  • Drug Policy in Portugal

    The Benefits of Decriminalizing Drug Use
    Artur Domoslawski
    Open Society Foundations
    August 2011

    ?In 2000, the Portuguese government responded to widespread public concern over drugs by rejecting a "war on drugs" approach and instead decriminalized drug possession and use. It further rebuffed convention by placing the responsibility for decreasing drug demand as well as managing dependence under the Ministry of Health, rather than the Ministry of Justice. With this, the official response toward drug dependent persons shifted from viewing them as criminals, to treating them as patients.

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  • Dug Policy Profile Portugal

    Maria Moreira, Brendan Hughes, Claudia Costa Storti & Frank Zobel
    European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
    Drug Policy Profiles
    June 2011

    This profile describes the national drug policy of Portugal, a policy that has attracted significant attention recently in the media and in policy debates. It considers national strategies and action plans, the legal context within which they operate and the public funds spent, or committed, to resource them. It also describes the political bodies and mechanisms set up to coordinate the response to the multi-faceted problem and the systems of evaluation that may help to improve future policy. The profile puts this information in context by outlining the size, wealth and economic situation of the country as a whole, as well as the historical development of the current policy.

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  • Time to decriminalise drugs?

    J P de V van Niekerk
    South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) Vol. 101, No. 2
    February 2011

    The drug trade has increased globally in intensity and reach, and substance abuse in South Africa has escalated rapidly. Drug misuse is a major social, legal and public health challenge despite the war on drugs, in which the USA has a disproportionate influence. Why this lack of progress and what can be done about it?

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  • TNI-EMCDDA Expert Seminar on Threshold Quantities

    Transnational Institute
    January 20, 2011

    A wider trend for drug law reform is arising out of a felt need to make legislation more effective and more humane. Within this trend, a number of countries have considered decriminalisation or depenalisation models and many have, at least initially, considered threshold quantities as a good way to distinguish between what is possession and what is supply or trafficking and as a means to ensure that the sentences imposed are proportionate to the harmfulness of the offence.

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  • What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?

    Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes & Alex Stevens
    British Journal of Criminology
    November 2010

    The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance.

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  • Portuguese priorities

    Portugal’s response to drug use been the subject of much scrutiny and debate
    Nick Warburton
    Drink and Drugs News
    Monday, October 11, 2010

    In July 2001, the Portuguese government introduced Law 30, setting in train a radical new approach to illicit drug use. In practice, it decriminalised the possession of certain quantities of drugs for personal use, instead referring users to one of the country’s 20 ‘dissuasion commissions’. Allied with decree 183 – which significantly expanded the network of harm reduction programmes – this meant that heroin users could seek help rather than face the wrath of the police.

  • Review of methodologies of evaluating effects of drug-related legal changes

    European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
    April, 2010

    This paper analyses scientific and grey literature that examines the consequences of drug law changes, and describes their approach and methodologies. A multi-part search strategy identified 36 primary studies coming from Europe, North America and Australia, which were then categorised by the type of legal change they examined; changes to laws addressing illegal use and possession, changes in laws regulating legal use and possession, and enforcement strategies of existing laws such as police crackdowns and employee drug testing.

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  • Penalisation of drug possession

    Institutional action and costs
    Ewelina Kuzmicz et al.
    Institute of Public Affairs, Analyses & Opinions, 11/104
    December 2009

    Polish law provides punishment for possession of narcotic drugs. It is a controversial issue whether punishing for possession of any amount of drugs is a right thing to do. Regardless of one’s opinion, it is worth being aware of the consequences of the adopted legal solutions. In spite of the high cost, the enforcement of the Act does not result in mitigating drug problems in Poland, such as reduction of drug trafficking or “deterring” their potential users.

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  • Mexico: The Law Against Small-Scale Drug Dealing

    A Doubtful Venture
    Jorge Hernández Tinajero & Carlos Zamudio Angles
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 3
    November 2009

    In August 2009, Mexico adopted a new law against small-scale drug dealing, which introduces some significant advances in key subjects, such as the recognising of and distinguishing between user, drug addict and dealer. However it still has significant flaws in continuing to treat demand and supply of drugs as a criminal and market phenomenon that are likely to undermine its successful application.

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