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kenmc's avatar

Portugal's drug legalization is a "resounding success". Would this work in America?

Asked by kenmc (11763points) June 7th, 2009

From this article talking about Portugal’s recent decriminalization of personal possession of drugs…

Decriminalization is dismissed out of hand by those that consider drugs a moral issue, but prohibitionists that stoop to debate argue decriminalization will bring a “parade of horrors.” Some of these are that usage and addiction rates will explode, more children will do drugs, and decriminalized areas will become drug tourist havens that will spread addiction throughout the world.

None of these things have occurred in Portugal. Instead a massive amount of financial resources have been freed up to provide treatment to those that want it. In addition, more of the population has been willing to take advantage of government-supplied treatment now that there is no fear of criminal ramifications.

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18 Answers

Judi's avatar

I wonder if the powers that be will ever get it?

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

They’ll get it some day. If a vote were held with my generation being the only parties involved (teens to mid 20’s), marijuana would be legalized with a resounding victory. And the next generation up is probably split 50/50.

We’re wasting money on fighting marijuana and some other low level drugs (NOT drugs like heroine and cocaine, which are awful plagues on humanity and we need to maintain laws against).... But slowly and surely people are realizing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marijuana was legalized in my lifetime.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Making marijuana legal and then taxing it would solve a lot of problems in America.

Judi's avatar

@westy81585 ; the problem is that groups of people get more conservative as they age. My peers were the psychedelic generation and they are the ones that block it now.

iquanyin's avatar

of course it would work. when ppl make all those anti-decrim arguments, here’s my amswer: how long have drugs been illegal, worldwide? now how long has civilization been around? people took whatever they liked, for most of human history. the modern antidrug stuff is about economics, at root, and a very cyincal thing. (also, studies show usage rates and patterns of a given society’s favored drugs remains constant, with about 10% getting addicted to whatever, most using as per/norm, and about 10% abstaining. a bell curve, like with any other thing. drugs are not magical special demon claws, they’re just stuff that exists, like all other stuff).

iquanyin's avatar

oh, and think about this: those who are addicted and want treatment are way more likely to seek it and get it if they’re not having to lable themselves as a criminal to do it. note the “get it” part too: addicts wait for treatment. and wait. and wait. the original post noted the reason, that we waste money “warring” on drugs and so don’t have much left for actually doing something.

iquanyin's avatar

i will also say this: i’ve done drugs (gasp) including smoking crack cocain. did i get hooked? not even close. i didn’t care for it much, actually. in fact, i like very few drugs, legal or not. i mention this to enlighten ppl that substances aren’t some irresistable force. a lot depends on one’s situation, personal neurochemical balance, and so on. here’s another food for thought: how many ppl here know that methamphetamine is a treatment for adhd? probably not many. how many ppl here know about the success psychiatrists had using LSD to treat alchoholics before the research was banned? and there’s a lot more documented stuff like that, if one cares to look into the matter.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

The problem with the drug war in the US is that it is not working yet we keep blindly plodding along with no results deluding ourselves into thinking we’re doing the moral thing by outlawing all drugs (yet somehow alcohol and tobacco get a pass but are still just as destructive).

We’ve made drugs illegal but people still get drugs through illegal channels. This funds illegal criminal organizations from drug cartels to gangs. These groups then use that revenue to fund other illegal activities such as arms dealing.

All the while we are imprisoning addicts, many of whom are non-violent offenders, which doesn’t treat the problem of addiction because they can still get drugs in jail.

It’s a big mess. The progressive and compassionate thing to do for addicts would be to decriminalize drug use, get them out of prison and into treatment. For the addicts who committed violent crimes to feed their habit, well, they need to stay in prison.

I still don’t think that heroin, cocaine and meth should ever be legal because then will become commercial products and companies will profit from human suffering. However decriminalizing recreational use and getting people into treatment is the way to address the problem.

iquanyin's avatar

@compassionateheretic (love ur name!) but ppl already profit from it! keeping it illegal just adds another layer of suffering on top of the original one. since obviously someone is going to profit off ppl wanting/needing drugs, i’d rather it be big pharma. why? for the same reason i’m glad liqour is sold at safeway rather than by gansters in speakeasies.

making drugs illegal, as is pretty cliche but true: drives up the price (which drives up theft and up incentive to sell), drives violence (how many stories of ppl being shot over tobbacco turf wars have you read?), ruins lives (esp of ppl at the lowest—or even no—levels; they have no info to trade the law to get lighter sentences, and increases the physical risk tremendously. to wit: a legal, possibly prescrbed substance is pure, has a known strength, and can be monitored and aided by your family doctor. info on side effects and when to go to the er is widely available, and there’s no barrier to handling emergiencies quickly (whereas i’d think twice about hitting the er, if i were od’ing on something, because i prefer not chancing arrest).

there are like, about five social topics i feel very strongly about (and i learn, so i’m not just spouting opinion, or i aim for that at least). this whole war on drugs (actually, war on some ppl who use drugs) business is one of them.

whatthefluther's avatar

It hasn’t just worked in Portugal…it has worked in many other countries. And it would work here as well and is long overdo. Unfortunately, despite proven, documented successes, many people just can’t accept that legalizing a harmful substance (“drug”) can result in favorable results. Much has to do with the stigma attached to drug use, which, as @westy81585 notes, is softening. I, for one, would like to see it sooner than later. See ya…wtf

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, if the majority can handle the outcry from the far-right political spectrum.

CMaz's avatar

Legalizing marijuana and taxing it? That just transfers the drug dealer to legal status.
Like the lottery, gambling and booze.
Marijuana should be legal for personal consumption only, grown in small quantity for your own use. Possession of large quantities, giving the intent to sell. Would still be a crime. Like we do with alcohol.
Not making it a sellable product, puts government into actually doing the job of keeping things safe without the motivation being greedy or wanting a piece of the action.

iquanyin's avatar

um…those things are legal. and as you note, you can grow it for yourself. i assume it will be legal, when gen y takes the reins. (btw, pot is…too much for me! i could easily get some, but i actually gave it up in high school).

Judi's avatar

@ChazMaz, and how’s that working for us?

CMaz's avatar

Do you mean the lottery, gambling or Alcohol? It is a compromise, prohibition did nothing but get too many people killed.
The problem with them in its current form is giving the illusion that since it is government regulated (taxed) that it is now for a good cause. (percentage going to education) Only good cause is money in the pockets of the rich, “more fortunate (native americans)” and uncle sam who get his cut.

And, yes you can grow it yourself. But still illegal.

Poser's avatar

Yes, it would work. Marijuana should be legalized. All other drugs should be decriminalized. The money spent on keeping them out of the country (the most failed endeavor—in a plethora of failed endeavors—ever undertaken by our government) should be spent on treating addicts, rather than imprisoning them.

The war on drugs is a simple equation:

supply = demand

For thirty years we’ve been trying to staunch the supply while doing almost nothing to reduce demand. The flow has done nothing but increase. We need to D.A.R.E. to stop throwing our money and people’s lives away by ignoring 8th grade economics.

benjaminlevi's avatar

I think marijuana should be legalized and we could see how that works out, as like a trial what drug legalization would be like.

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