Monday, August 16, 2010

What Do You Think About This?

Is Portugal's Liberal Drug Policy a Model for US?

LISBON, Portugal (Aug. 14) -- Ten years ago, Portugal had some 100,000 heroin addicts -- about 1 percent of its entire population. HIV infections from injecting drugs were among the highest in Europe.

Now the addict count has been cut nearly in half. HIV infections from drug use have fallen more than 90 percent. And the policy shift responsible for such a dramatic improvement in Portuguese life is something U.S. lawmakers -- watching an escalating drug war on their southern border -- might consider worthy of some attention: decriminalization.

Ten years ago this summer, Portugal became the first country in Europe to decriminalize all illegal drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and even heroin. Hefty fines and prison sentences still await drug traffickers and dealers, but users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug are no longer considered criminals. Instead, they're referred to a panel comprised of a drug-treatment specialist, a lawyer and a civil servant, who usually recommend treatment -- and pay for it, too. If the users decline treatment and go back to abusing drugs, that's their prerogative.

What are your thoughts?

Legalize all drugs?

Will this make our borders safer?


Always On Watch said...

I'm of two minds about this issue.

Clearly, the American "war on drugs" isn't working -- and the problem with that failure isn't only the border issue.

On the other hand, in my own family, the generation after me has had severe problems with drugs. Would making drugs legal have helped these relatives of mine? I don't think so.

Mustang said...

Since I have never used drugs, I am not a qualified drug counselor or an advocate. I am not an expert. It seems to me that it is possible to manipulate statistics to produce a desirable result. I don’t trust statistics, particularly when they appear outrageous. A 90% decline in HIV infection, a 50% reduction in addicts does appear very interesting. I suppose we could look deeper into how the Portuguese define addict, how they count them. I don’t know how to explain the HIV infection rate, other than the possibility that HIV infected persons are dying rather quickly.

You know, this reminds me of the method used by one California city to rid itself of homeless people. After police rounded up all homeless people, fed them at the county jail, they chartered Greyhound buses, drove them to Phoenix, and let them out. Voila! San Diego homeless problem solved.

I think when nations legalize drugs they’ve give up ‘the war.’ There is no worse parent than one who gives up on his or her children. I think we can make the same statement about nations who suddenly throw up their hands and say, “Okay, you can have your @*%$# drugs.” Of course, we are talking about Portugal here … it has the number one brain-drain problem on the entire continent. I wonder why the government hasn’t used its apparently marvelous social programs skills to change that significant problem. Ever notice how Malaysia doesn’t have many drug users?

Z said...

I don't quite get how the number went down when they weren't facing criminalization for using?

I'm with AOW....would those relatives of hers not used drugs because they were legal?

I wish we could just stop all drug importation into America...I don't see why we can't do a better job at the borders, but then.......DID I JUST STAY THAT?? :-)

Chuck said...

Z touched on what I think about this. There are some who say we should legalize drugs because the war on drugs has failed. I have a couple of thoughts on this

-using the excuse that the war isn't working is a ridiculous excuse for scrapping it. Let's stop trying to arrest pedophiles because we seem to be having hard time catching them.

-we never really have had a war on drugs. We have had a lot of lip service about it but no real war. Shut down the borders, go after the users.

This is one area in which I have thought the minorities have had a bit of a beef about our justice system.

Our war on drugs have tended to target the pushers and carriers (often minorities and/or lower class) while ignoring the consumers of the drugs (often Caucasian and often middle to upper class).

Karen Howes said...

I agree that dealers ought to be the ones who REALLY get punished, not the addicts.

~Leslie said...

I have never been an advocate for legalizing drug use. I have seen too much of the affect of drug use in the lives of children and families.

The point is, decriminalizing drugs would only make the use of them easier --poor actions without consequences. Haven't we seen this re-run in every other social behavior? What is the result of poor behavior when no consequences exist?

In my area we have a government run Meth "clinic" (which I have dubbed the Government's Meth Lab) which claims to help Meth users kick the habit. Only hitch is that the users are charged a certain amount of money for their "treatment" dose every day --these are people lining up to get their high then allowed to leave in their vehicles with their children (and OH, pregnant women get their treatment for free!) Okay, so this is a BIG issue with me.

So instead of the doctors (who have invested in the clinic as well and are getting quite a nice kick back) lowering the doseage, they keep the addicts on the same dose or raise it. (My co-workers and I have clients who have experienced this.) It becomes legal drug dealing where no one is helped other than the gov. officials who have learned how to make an extra buck at the expense of desperate addicts.

One of the "Jean Team" officers came to speak to us about drug abuse and what to observe in the homes if we suspect drug useage etc. a training course for we home visitors --he was completely against the Gov. Meth Lab and the legalizing of drugs due to affects of drug use he has seen in people every day. He also explained how the drug use in our area has not decreased in any way since the Meth Lab opened --drug use is actually on the rise.

I think we need to get to the source of the problem: open borders allows more drug smuggling which allows more drug deals/usage. That is at the heart of the problem. Another area to look at: where do the funds for the "War on Drugs" actually go? Because in our area, they just had to lay off four officers from the Jean Team...

Chuck said...

Karen, a lot of drugs are used by recreational users. I am in favor of helping addicts but I also am in favor of punishing those who are the market for the drug

Leslie, I agree - where is the money? I think this is one of the problems with our "war on drugs" failing. I suspect a lot of it is going to local officials, administrative costs and grants to community organizers.

Hayden said...

I am skeptical of the statistics. I am for border control, which of course takes care of many of our country's problems.

I often ask myself where does the corruption end in issues like this? On one side we have the question of can we trust this government to use resources for fighting the drug war effectively? On the other side, do we call foul and give up the entire fight?

I am not one for giving up. I am one for analyzing the situation and making corrections to a broken system.

Chuck said...

Hayden, as Mustang said, statistics can be used to say what you want. I agree, fix the problem don't give up

MuddleVanHeck said...

I firmly believe that the biggest problem related to our drug use has more to do with the 'Walmartization' from the supply side rather than the demand.

Since Latin America has managed to monopolize the illegal drug industry, the cost of these drugs are easy to afford, and kids are able to acquire them easily.

If we effectively dealt with illegal immigration and border security, the prices would rise, thereby making drug abuse too expensive for most. Right now it's cheaper to buy these drugs than it is to obtain them through legal means, such as a visit to the doctor.

We need to get SERIOUS about border security and enforcement.

LomaAlta said...

Chuck, you have the answers from AOW, Mustang,Z, Leslie, and Hayden.

Relieving people of their personal responsibility for their own conduct has never led to anythig but human suffering and disaster on horribly large scales. Such thinking is the devil's own work.

Chuck said...

Muddle, I don't disagree - I just think we need to punish all involved

LomaAlta, agreed

Sam Huntington said...

Using Muddle’s argument, then we should assume prostitution (supply) created johns (demand). This is not what I believe. There would be no prostitution without a demand for it. We may wish to shift blame for our low morality on to the backs of drug growers, traffickers, and sellers … I rather think these people would find another business were there no demand for such poisonous merchandise.

MK said...

To me they need to first ensure that i nor any other member of society has to pay in any way for the drug habits of someone else, then they can inject and shoot up what they like.

Alcohol is legal in Australia, yet it costs us taxpayers billions upon billions every year. I don't want to be paying for some scumbags crack habit too.

Chuck said...

Sam, I tend to agree. I do believe the traffickers and pushers should be punished more, they are committing the violence in our communities. But, they would not be doing it if they did not have consumers

MK, I have a bit of an issue with alcohol and cigarettes. Don't get me wrong, I do occasionally drink an adult beverage. It does do a lot of damage to our society though.