Thursday, September 3, 2009

Portugal's success with liberalized drug laws

I have been harping on health care for a while, and ignoring one of my other favorite subjects, our moronic war on drugs. The Economist has a story this week about a report from the Cato Institute claiming that things have improved in many ways in the 8 years since Portugal decriminalized drugs. More addicts feel comfortable getting treatments, AIDS cases among drug users is down, and there has been no rise in drug usage as a result. In Portugal now, drug users are treated as people with a disease that needs treatment, not criminals. Read the Economist story here.

Or, you can read the complete Cato Institute report HERE. Here is a quote from the summary at the beginning of the report:
decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

One weakness of this report is that it contains no data on the amounts of money spent by taxpayers under the current system as opposed to before decriminalization. It would be interesting to know if Portugal is getting these results and also spending less taxpayer money on drug issues, as one might guess.

I am not in agreement with the libertarians at the Cato Institute on too many issues, but when it comes to the war on drugs, these guys are right on the mark.

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