What The United States Needs to Learn From Portugal
I am sure by now that you have seen where Oregon decriminalized drugs up to a certain amount, which is HUGE. This will do some much to help rehabilitate addicts versus punishing them, which we know does not help them. Has anyone investigated where Oregon got this idea? It actually came from Portugal.
Portugal decided to overnight decriminalize all drugs in 2001, and has had incredible results, but why did they decide to do something so controversial? In 1974, drugs were introduced to Portugal as their country had went through some radical changes. With the drugs, came an AIDS pandemic unlike any other country in the EU. By the time 1990s hit, heroin usage was at an all time high. It was reported that 1 in 100 people were addicted to heroin at that time.
When Portugal decided to enact this, the idea was to help the addict, instead of singling out those with a problem. This meant using harm reduction, rehabilitation, and other forms of treatment to help these people to help them get the help they need.
If you get caught with drugs in Portugal now, they have a team evaluate you. If they find you have an actual drug issue, they send you to treatment. Their studies have shown about 1 in 10 have actual drug issues.
The war on drug money is now being spent the following ways; 10 percent is spent on policing and the rest is spent on treatment and rehabilitation. They even help provide the people who go through treatment with jobs after completing treatment.
I am sure you are wondering if they criminalize anyone for drugs in any case. Yes, they do. They will criminalize you for the sale of drugs. They are not going to promote the trafficking of drugs, which is incredible. Why would you want to sanction the sale of drugs at all?
Statistics have proven that Portugal has the highest recovery rate in the world from drugs, and even better is the fact that fewer than 30 people die from drug overdoses. Within a decade, half the number of addicts disappeared.
Portugal has stated the biggest reason for the success was early intervention and promoting that getting help for the addict will achieve greater success than criminalizing. Increasing penalties and criminal charges for minor drug offense increases drug usage.
Let’s discuss how this approach could help the United States. As stated above, Oregon has already taken this approach. They are running state funded facilities funded by cannabis sales for people who decide to get treatment.
The war on drugs is useless. We are throwing people into jail/prison for minor drug charges, and not rehabilitating them. Throwing them into jail/prison just puts them back around drugs. You are being mislead if you think they are not around drugs in those environments.
Am I naïve enough to think that people will abuse this system if it were in place in the United States? No, but as an addict in recovery, this could potentially save a lot of lives. If some of these people have this option instead of going to prison, just think of how many lives we could change.
Drug dealers still need to be punished for their crimes. They are knowingly causing harm to other people for money. Literally what they are selling these people could kill others, and has killed some.
Let’s still treat drug possession as a citation, but let’s give people a chance to get their lives together before punishing them.
You can believe, wrongfully, that prison is the answer, but the fact is people need a chance to get their lives together. Let’s stop punishing the broken, and start healing them. Let’s help get them a chance to succeed. I believe we should follow Portugal’s lead.