Drug Decriminalization in Portugal
June 21, 2016

Portugal is know for being a country with innovative drug laws. Until 2000, the posession and consumption of any drug was considered ilegal and even a crime. Finally, in 2000, consumption and posession for comsumption were legally separeted from posession for traffic.

This means that comsumption and posession for consumption are still ilegall and punished by fines and community work, while posession for traffic is criminalized. This difference is stipulated by what the law recognizes as an “amount required for average individual consumption during a 10 days period”; for example: if you have in your posession up until 1g of MDMA or 2g of Cocaine, that is considered ilegal but not a crime. This does not mean that if someone has 1.1g of MDMA that is instantly considered a crime; there are other sings of drug traffic, such as the amout of money that person has, his backgrounds, the drug being divided in small doses,…

This law protects drug addicts, because it looks at drug addiction as a medical problem and not a crime. If you get caught with small amounts of drugs, for your own comsumption, you may be “invited” to go to treatment, if your drug use is considered problematic, but you don’t go to jail. Another aspect in which this law is pioneer, it’s because it accepts the existance of recreational drug use, allowing the implementation of harm reduction measures such as drug checking.

Some of the many positive results of the Portuguese decriminalization policy are:

  • drug use among the younger population has decreased
  • the number of people in drug substituition programs has increased
  • drug addicts are no longer affraid of asking for help
  • the main groups infected with HIV are no longer the “drug addicts” but the “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals”
  • the total of drug related deaths has decreased

Even though this is not the perfect law, it has certanly brought more positive than negative effects and this should be seen has an evidence that strict drug laws are not the answer.