PORTUGAL THE BLUEPRINT

Many in the United States have become giddy with the success being achieved in the legalization of marijuana. They should not be. The United States is not a leader in bringing good judgment to the subject.

 

The United States is light years behind when it comes to a better handling of the drug situation. Unquestionably, one of crisis…

 

Realization has hit home that marijuana use in the United States has not been eliminated by the harsh penalties and jail sentences of the past 40 years. There had to be a better way. Legalization.

 

One of the benefits would be less incarceration. Meaning fewer jailed for pot use. Resulting in less enforcement and jail personnel required. A big time dollar savings. Keep in mind it costs $85 thousand a year to maintain one person in prison.

 

Why is the United States behind? We are still in the throes of legalizing/decriminalizing marijuana use. The far right, conservatives and many religious groups are opposed. They view decriminalization as doing the Devil’s work.

 

A nation has succeeded by legalizing all drug use. The program an outstanding success. Other countries are considering doing the same based on that country’s success.

 

The nation is Portugal.

 

Portugal decided its war on drugs was a failure. Drug use was in a crisis mode. Hard punitive punishment was not working.

 

Portugal legalized drug use in 2001. All drugs. Including heroin and cocaine. Passed a law to the effect. Dropped drug use from a crime with the possibility of prison. Made drug use an administrative matter, if the amount possessed was less than a 10 day supply.

 

Treatment was provided. Incarceration not. Drug control moved from the Justice Department to the Ministry of Health.

 

It is now fourteen years later. Portugal’s program a success. Drug use has not been eliminated. However, it is controlled. Benefits have been realized.

 

Initially, drug use increased. Then gradually declined. Drug use among adults (16-64) is dramatically down. Continued drug use by adults is also down. Forty five percent to 28 percent.

 

Drug induced deaths have decreased dramatically. Seventy eight percent to 18 percent. The HIV infection rate has dropped significantly. From 42 percent to 4 percent. Teenage drug use is down.

 

The decrease in imprisonments dropped beyond initial thought. Jails are closing because drug crime no longer exists. Imagine, not enough crime breakers to fill the jails!

 

One negative occurrence. The number of people receiving addiction treatment has increased. The cost negligible when compared to the cost of jailing those people, however.

 

Portugal’s approach was considered unusual. Portugal realized from the beginning that total eradication was impossible. The thought was to control drug use.

 

Portugal has become the blueprint for other nations.

 

Ecuador is seriously interested. In Ecuador’s new Constitution of 2008, it was specifically stated that drug consumption was not a crime.

 

Recently, a bill was introduced in its legislative body to supplement  and give effect to the Constitution’s language. The bill would view drug consumption as a health concern and not a crime. It is anticipated the bill will become law this year without any problem.

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and the United States government are not the best of friends. Ecuador at one point gave WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum. Regarding the drug problem, President Correa booted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration out of Ecuador.

 

Ireland is next in line. It is giving serious consideration to following Portugal’s path. So too, Great Britain.

 

Portugal, Ecuador, Ireland and Great Britain have seen the light. Prison for drug involvement has proven absurd. It has not and does not work. I read somewhere recently that if the United States’ war on drugs were a business, it would have been out of business long ago. Businesses do not survive without success..

 

The United States should start taking a hard look at Portugal’s success. Decriminalizing marijuana is a step too little. Of the multitude of Republicans seeking the Presidential nomination, I doubt any would support such an approach. Except perhaps Rand Paul.

 

The religious right, conservative America, the Council of Catholic Bishops, Fox, etc., would rally against all out decriminalization of drug use.

 

It never ceases to amaze me. The United States at one time was in the forefront for change. Good change. Not change merely for the sake of change.

 

Today’s politics prevent the United States from being such a leader. The United States has not lead in a long time. I fear it will be an even longer time before we are in a world wide leadership position.

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