Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Portugal Drug Decriminalization

Scientific American had an interesting article on Portugal's experience with drug decriminalization. They had an interesting strategy to the whole thing which seems like a conservative enough one that it might be possible to replicate in the United States. The main premise is stop putting users in jail, but keep the penalties for dealing the same. Users who are caught go in front of a panel that has three options: mandate drug treatment, give a fine, or no penalty. This system seemed to have really good results for them dramatically reducing deaths from both HIV, and drug overdoses.

I see drug dealers as the moral equivalent of liquor store salesmen. Poor guys just trying to make a few bucks who neither make the drugs nor force the drugs upon people. So I am inclined to do something more radical than Portugal, but I can see the political reality. The Portugal model if pushed hard enough just might be viable in the short term here in America. There is even a chance this system would work better than the one I would want. After all it leaves drugs difficult to get while making treatment and clean needles easy to get. That may be the best compromise.

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