Modern Culture

Portugal’s drug policy shows what common-sense approach looks like

*University of Oregon School of Law 

“By the end of the ’90s, it was almost impossible to find a Portuguese family with no problem with heroin,” Goulao said, adding that the epidemic was so widespread across all economic classes that the public was crying out for a humane solution … The government formed a commission, and Goulao was one of its members. They came up with a…  solution: decriminalize drugs.  “Decriminalization was very important,” Goulao said. “It introduced coherency into our system.” 

That doesn’t mean illicit drug use is legal. It means it’s treated as a public health problem, not a criminal one. He described it as akin to not wearing your seat belt. The government demands that you wear one for your safety, but it’s not going to send you to prison for not complying. Instead, it will fine you or send you to traffic school. In Portugal, the possession of any type of drug in amounts that would last one person 10 days or fewer is decriminalized. If a police officer catches someone with a small amount of any drug — the person must report to a special commission within three days. That commission is composed of a lawyer, a psychologist and a social worker. It is not part of the criminal justice system, and there is no judge. The commission interviews the drug user and may recommend a psychologist to address underlying problems and suggest drug treatment facilities. The person doesn’t have to comply, but if he or she declines, the file will stay open. If he or she is caught using drugs again, the consequence may be assignment to community service or a stay-away orders from the place the drugs were being used. If the person deviates from the path — such as by not showing up for the commission appointment within three days or not obeying a stay-away order — police may get involved. Police also arrest anybody with more than 10 days’ worth of drugs or people caught selling drugs… Goulao said.

Original Article (SF Chronicle & Drug Policy Alliance):
Portugal’s drug policy shows what common-sense approach looks like
Artwork Fair Use: U of O School of Law Webcam

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