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March 27, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

"Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go unindicted and possession is a misdemeanor on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results."

"One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish: These are the drug quantities one can legally purchase and possess in Portugal, carrying them through the streets of Lisbon in a pants pocket, say, without fear of repercussion. MDMA -- the active ingredient in ecstasy -- and amphetamines -- including speed and meth -- can also be possessed in amounts up to one gram. That's roughly enough of each of these drugs to last 10 days."
posted by vidur (125 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ugh, being accosted by randos saying "pot? hash? hash? hash? pot? pot? pot?" gets kind of old. You know dealers love this, too, since they can keep a larger stash nearby but carry within limits to work crowds.
posted by resurrexit at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, being accosted by randos saying "pot? hash? hash? hash? pot? pot? pot?" gets kind of old. You know dealers love this, too, since they can keep a larger stash nearby but carry within limits to work crowds

Things which never happen where piddling amounts of drugs are arrest-worthy!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [49 favorites]


Why should it be akin to a parking ticket? Why not just legalize it?
posted by Flunkie at 5:07 PM on March 27, 2013


Arrayed on Goulão's windowsill are photographs, including one of him with Richard Branson, the British billionaire and hot air balloon operator.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:08 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, being accosted by randos saying "pot? hash? hash? hash? pot? pot? pot?" gets kind of old.

I am so, so sorry that Portugal's success at limiting the damage caused by drug addiction has personally inconvenienced you. Truly we live in the darkest hour of western civilization.
posted by Avenger at 5:08 PM on March 27, 2013 [92 favorites]


Why should it be akin to a parking ticket? Why not just legalize it?

International treaties mostly is my understanding.
posted by fshgrl at 5:11 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Ugh, being accosted by randos saying "pot? hash? hash? hash? pot? pot? pot?" gets kind of old.

In that case, a word of advice; don't ever visit Nimbin, Australia.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:12 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't be rude, I wasn't trying to be--just commenting on my experiences with Portugal's drug culture in the larger cities and one unfortunate aspect of this policy (which, I agree, is far better than the Perpetual War on Drugs approach).
posted by resurrexit at 5:12 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Experts are high as hell, thanks.
posted by klangklangston at 5:12 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But this is a nice contrast from Der Spiegel's article on, what, the Czech Republic a couple weeks ago, where they worried about drug sales hurting Germany. Guess Portugal is far enough to give them critical distance.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on March 27, 2013


"We figured perhaps this way we would be better able get things under control," Goulão explains. "Criminalization certainly wasn't working all that well."

"He's a witch! Burn him!" said a source at the DEA, who asked not to be named.
posted by rtha at 5:15 PM on March 27, 2013 [31 favorites]


And this is why Portugal is undergoing an economic crisis: they've impoverished their penal-industrial complex by not feeding a continuous stream of marijuana offenders into it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:18 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


In that case, a word of advice; don't ever visit Nimbin, Australia.

Ooh man. I had two dudes knocking on my car window before i'd even come to a stop.
posted by Jimbob at 5:18 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish

Pardon my naivete, but how much is this for the casual user? A week? A month?
posted by desjardins at 5:33 PM on March 27, 2013


Those interested in the Portuguese experience (worst band name evar) can check out Glenn "Glen" Greenwald's report.
posted by docgonzo at 5:37 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well man it just depends on how casual you want to get if you catch my drift. jeje jeje.
posted by adamvasco at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


If it's good stuff, 25 grams of marijuana is a shitload!

So I've heard...
posted by saul wright at 5:39 PM on March 27, 2013


desjardins: "One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish

Pardon my naivete, but how much is this for the casual user? A week? A month?
"

As stated in the article, it's approximately 10 days' supply of each of those.
posted by notsnot at 5:41 PM on March 27, 2013


Heroin tolerances are all over the map, but the couple of coworkers I've had who had habits had half-gram daily habits. Except for Dirty Tony, who would brag about doing a gram a shot three times a day. He could have been full of shit, but he was doing at least enough to nod off into a tub of scalding water. 3.5 grams of weed is an eighth of an ounce, so 25 grams is almost an ounce (just over 7/8ths). If it's good weed, you need to be dedicated to get in over an eighth, but I've known half-ounce a day smokers. So maybe a work week's worth.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heroin tolerances are all over the map, but the couple of coworkers I've had who had habits had half-gram daily habits. Except for Dirty Tony, who would brag about doing a gram a shot three times a day.

Dude, where did you work? Goldman Sachs?
posted by Avenger at 5:51 PM on March 27, 2013 [46 favorites]


Hah! No, Mexican restaurant with a decent secondary drug market. We'd have junkie front of house staff or delivery drivers who would get hired because they were in a band with one of the cooks or something, they'd work there for a couple of months, get paid in cash, then pretty much inevitably fuck up the job to the point that they had to be fired by the coked-out night manager (who would sometimes "loan" himself a grand or two for blow over a weekend, then get all paranoid and accuse folks like me of stealing when the books didn't add up).
posted by klangklangston at 5:57 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Decriminalization hasn't made the problem worse."

Well, that's something, I guess.

Myself, I deplore the fact that geriatrics are not permitted to head towards the end of life with the comforts of opium.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


IndigoJones, that's how I plan to spend the last days! My family is already highly aware that I'll be chasing the dragon and a bunch of other stuff I'm certain would have killed me if tried while young. It's soooo less embarrassing to die of a drug overdose when you're 80 and your family has been on-board with you holding off your experimentation until that time. Plus, my parents won't be around to feel shamed.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:20 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Myself, I deplore the fact that geriatrics are not permitted to head towards the end of life with the comforts of opium.

Indeed. I sorely hope that, if I do end up living until I'm elderly, and I do end up dying slowly and with some degree of lucidity, that I'm somewhere that has moved foward to the point Portugal is at now. I will want to have some clarity, sure, but I will also want very much to have things like MDMA and cocaine and marijuana and so on available to me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:20 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


25 grams of marijuana leaves

Who on Earth wants to smoke marijuana leaf? 25 grammes is about good for a dull headache.
posted by Wolof at 6:26 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


10 days? Smoking almost an ounce of weed in 10 days wouldn't leave one capable of doing much else.
Maybe the Portuguese stuff is kife.
posted by Flashman at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2013


Myself, I deplore the fact that geriatrics are not permitted to head towards the end of life with the comforts of opium.

They won't even allow DMT. Die without peace is the philosophy I suppose.
posted by juiceCake at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2013


Yeah, I noticed that, too. Marijuana flowers are what you smoke. The leaves are MAYBE good for making canabutter if you have a shitload to use, and I guess are also suitable for making honey oil if you want to do that (and again have a shitload)... But generally, if I end up with a leafy bag, I know I'm being ripped off.
posted by hippybear at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2013


Heroin is typically sold in 0.1 gram units called bags. Ten bags (1 gram) makes a bundle. Most folks who visit the clinic at my syringe exchange report habits of a few bags a day, but I've seen patients with upwards of 15 bag/day habits.
posted by The White Hat at 6:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's safe to assume the leaves thing is just someone writing about drugs who doesn't know an awful lot about the actual drugs in question. A mistake, in other words.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


2 grams of cocaine is about $100 worth, that is about what people buy when they are out "partying" so the amount make sense.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:36 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, an ounce of weed should be good for more than ten days. On some planet where no one else smokes your pot.
posted by spitbull at 6:39 PM on March 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


Two grams of coke is about half an eight-ball. That could last a light user for a month or a heavy user for an evening, depending on how much it's been stepped on.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:43 PM on March 27, 2013


The Terminator did this in California, I think the last year of his term, for pot. I have yet to be accosted and vioalted by "randos".
posted by Brocktoon at 6:44 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously.

Previouslier.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:46 PM on March 27, 2013


I do love it when people dismiss, well, everyone they don't know or don't care to know, as 'randoms' or 'randos'.
posted by Flashman at 6:51 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Drugs will become legal in the US not because it might dampen the present chaos but because there is good amounts of tax money that might be made.
posted by Postroad at 7:01 PM on March 27, 2013


Pardon my naivete, but how much is this for the casual user? A week? A month?

They say "10 days" in the article, but it varies of course. In terms of marijuana, American medical dispensaries in California allow for a typical maximum of 2 ounces per visit (~56 grams), and total possession (not necessarily on your person) of 8 ounces (~226 grams), which also governs materials carried by the dispensaries themselves (the nature of this law forces all such dispensaries in CA to be "cooperatives" or similar).

This varies from state to state. In Washington, for example, the legal possession limit per individual is 24 ounces (680 grams - this is a lot of marijuana). And of course in Washington they're working on actually executing this "recreational use for those over 21" thing - we'll see how that works out.

How much is that? An eighth-ounce of weed is roughly a standard prescription bottle full of weed. You can peg a "bowl" (the volume of weed that fills a typical pipe or bong) at roughly a gram. 25 such grams would represent maybe 2-3 bowls a day over these supposed 10 days, which seems a bit on the heavy end for "casual use." Buuut, on the high end, I've known people to go through 0.25 oz/day (~7 grams/day) or more, so for those guys, it's a few days worth, tops. Depending on what you mean by "casual," that means that 25 grams could pretty much be anything from a week to a month's worth.

Also, people have come up with a remarkable array of methods to get at the THC inside of marijuana. Vaporizing (rather than combusting) weed would get you more mileage out of those grams, for example. Quality matters too - weed comes in potency tiers in the semi-regulated medical-use world. And we're not even getting into the THC-products made FROM weed that isn't PRECISELY weed (besides hash, which, from the article, seems to have its own classification). 1 gram of concentrates/wax derived from the weed cultivation process (these are the leaves we're talking about. Referred to as "trim.") is much more potent than a gram of dried flower (what most people think of as "bud"), for example. Not because the leaves are more potent (they're less) but because they've concentrated the relevant material down into an almost pure THC wax.

So, the answer isn't that clear cut. This is even more murky for other drugs that are strictly controlled, like heroin or cocaine, which is adulterated quite a bit by the time endusers get a hold of it. Example: median lethal dosage for heroin is 1-5 mg/kg bodyweight (in opioid-naive individuals), but it varies wildly in the real world because virtually no one is getting pure heroin when they buy heroin illicitly.

I believe they say in the article that it's just a number, they really didn't have any data to go on, so it seems fairly arbitrary where they set the limit.
posted by Tikirific at 7:02 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


You can peg a "bowl" (the volume of weed that fills a typical pipe or bong) at roughly a gram.

This is incorrect.
posted by pompomtom at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


For more information on Portugal's experience, here's a good report:
Drug Policy in Portugal: The Benefits of Decriminalizing Drug Use
posted by gingerbeer at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


You guys, I am learning so much about drugs! Keep talking.

Can someone talk about mushrooms and LSD next? Those are confusing too. And ecstasy?

/sheltered life
posted by emjaybee at 7:11 PM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is incorrect.

Oops. Got too excited breaking things down. pompomtom is correct, that is a huge bowl.
posted by Tikirific at 7:18 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Washington, for example, the legal possession limit per individual is 24 ounces (680 grams - this is a lot of marijuana).

Not to mention a ridiculous two liters of infused liquid.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:24 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously & recently on MeFi:
Czeched Out

Der Spiegel caught quite a bit of flak in that thread (including a little from me) for being biased and overly negative about drugs decriminalization in the Czech Republic , but on closer inspection maybe this was unfair to Spiegel because the positive Portugual article and the negative Czech Republic article are all part of a series of articles( I think?) (scroll down the page to see the poorly promoted sidebar with links) which I guess are balanced overall?
posted by Bwithh at 7:32 PM on March 27, 2013


You can peg a "bowl" (the volume of weed that fills a typical pipe or bong) at roughly a gram.


Reading that made my lungs hurt.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:33 PM on March 27, 2013


A gram for a bowl?

Yowza! You have mammoth bowls on your pipes, man.
posted by hippybear at 7:38 PM on March 27, 2013


Can someone talk about mushrooms and LSD next? Those are confusing too. And ecstasy?

LSD comes in a variety of forms, but little 5mm^2 paper squares are most common. They have been soaked in the liquid LSD and dried, and are normally in perforated sheets for easy dose administration.

This is important because LSD is terribly strong and lasts a long time (eight hours is a reasonable baseline). So you want to get your dosage right, because whatever happens you're on that train to the end.

If you want to know more, this guy livetweeting his trip gives a very delightful and accurate description of what it's like (and is also not too far off what you'd get from some kinds of MDMA).
posted by Sebmojo at 7:41 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


8 hours for LSD? Most of my trips have lasted 12-16 hours.

Also, LSD is nothing like MDMA. Completely different effects.
posted by hippybear at 7:43 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yowza! You have mammoth bowls on your pipes, man.

/there were a lot of numbers and I got confused.
posted by Tikirific at 7:46 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Related: "We enforced Ottawa's pot laws. They don't work." A recent op-ed, signed by four former BC attorneys general, calling for an end to marijuana prohibition: "Now it is time to put ideology and politics aside in favour of a level-headed, evidence-based discussion about the failure of marijuana prohibition and the policy alternatives available to us."

Hope whichever government takes over from our current one in Canada takes a close look at the Portuguese example.
posted by gompa at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get the congratulatory tone here that decriminalization is the best way and the experts are happy.

"Goulão's staff is currently calculating how much money the country's judicial system has saved, in its courts and prisons, now that it no longer has to process individuals the police catch with a few grams of drugs."

From how I understand the article, they don't know if decriminalization is the best way. Their only conclusion is that it has not made the problem worse.

They have some data points which are interesting but not conclusive.

"Drug consumption has not increased severely. There is no mass chaos. For me as an evaluator, that's a very good outcome."

I guess avoiding catastrophe is one way to succeed but that's not what a good drug policy would target.

Again, this is a conclusion from limiting myself to the article. I haven't looked deeply into effects of various drug policies and if there are other studies which have proven that decriminalization results in lower costs/better society, I am all ears.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:57 PM on March 27, 2013


it's just straight up common sense. end of story.
posted by spicynuts at 8:07 PM on March 27, 2013


You guys, I am learning so much about drugs! Keep talking.

Can someone talk about mushrooms and LSD next? Those are confusing too. And ecstasy?

/sheltered life


Tikirific's comment, with the note about the hugeness of a gram-bowl, went right to my Evernote.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't looked deeply into effects of various drug policies and if there are other studies which have proven that decriminalization results in lower costs/better society, I am all ears.

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States
posted by GuyZero at 8:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish: {snippity snip}... That's roughly enough of each of these drugs to last 10 days."


Hunter S. Thompson's ghost reading that paragraph: HAH!!
posted by Skygazer at 8:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Glen Greenwald wrote a white paper on the effects of Portugal's decriminalization a while back.

The relevant takeaway:
"The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success."
He addresses usage rates, drug-related pathologies, and the fiscal advantages of decriminalization.
posted by protocoach at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


A bowl holds a quantity with a radius about the size of a fingernail, which burns up in maybe 10 tokes of smoke; if it's good weed that's enough to get a couple of people pleasantly high for a couple of hours. Not sure, but I'd guess out of a gram you could get maybe a dozen bowls. It goes a long way.
#haventsmokedweedinwaytoolong
posted by Flashman at 8:19 PM on March 27, 2013


Get a magic flight box and it lasts even longer than 10 hits.
posted by Sweetmag at 8:25 PM on March 27, 2013


I like how the tags tell an ever more gripping story as you read top to bottom.

I'd go see that movie. It's got everything chills, thrills, chase scenes, gun fights, hot steamy sex and an exotic locale.
posted by Skygazer at 8:29 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


A gram for a bowl?
Yowza! You have mammoth bowls on your pipes, man.
posted by hippybear


Relevant Louis CK bit.
posted by 445supermag at 8:34 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Drug consumption has not increased severely. There is no mass chaos. For me as an evaluator, that's a very good outcome."

I guess avoiding catastrophe is one way to succeed but that's not what a good drug policy would target.


You do realise that there's an implied "We didn't lock up a bunch of people who have lives and jobs and friends and families and obligations and rights and stuff" as well? Drug policy is coming off a very low bar. Not being absolutely fucked up is, indeed, a win.

Chaos aside, how many non-violent Americans have been locked up (and, more barbarically, disenfranchised) in the same period?
posted by pompomtom at 8:47 PM on March 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Didn't Hunter smoke heroin? I want to say it's called Persian...
posted by Brocktoon at 9:00 PM on March 27, 2013


wait, so can you make LSD there

i'm sorry to be so dumb and blunt but this is cutting to the chase
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:01 PM on March 27, 2013


I had two Dutch friends in town recently who were bemoaning the changes of the marijuana/hash laws in the Netherlands. I told them about Portugal legalizing everything in small quantities about ten years ago and neither of these very well-informed individuals knew dick about it. It appears that it wasn't/isn't well reported in the EU.

They both had some holiday time coming up and were planning on heading to Portugal to check the scene. Both reported that it just wasn't as easy to score as they imagined it would be and the quality was suspect. Except for the acid. They reported that to be old school hippie shit.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:03 PM on March 27, 2013


From Sebmojo's @hella_brad livetweeting his acid trip: "I knew that ice cream would come in handy sooner or later."

Cute, though I'm having a really hard time believing someone tripping for the first time could so completely avoid aphasia and confusion they could write those sentences and navigate a smartphone UI.
posted by mistersquid at 9:13 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


All this talk of drug amounts reminds me of Cheech and Chong‘s “Let‘s Make A Dope Deal!“
“How many joints are in a lid?“
“Two! I roll big joints, man!“

Oh, and Tikirific? A gram per bowl? I would love to hit a bong with you someday!
posted by Jughead at 9:18 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: "

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States
"

:) this seems a bit patronizing. When I said i haven't looked deeply into it, it doesn't mean that i didnt even do a prelim wiki search.

Any way, I am not sure if prohibition repeal results are directly comparable to decriminalization scenario discussed here. I mean I would need to go deeper into studying both before being conclusive but prima facie they seem different to me. prohibition - socially accepted drug with comparatively mid to low level harm and addiction potential ( there is only a lancet study that i can find but cant get full access to the study) compared to drugs which were socially unaccepted/very new and a wide range of harm/addiction potential.

protocoach: "Glen Greenwald wrote a white paper on the effects of Portugal's decriminalization a while back.

The relevant takeaway:
"The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success."
He addresses usage rates, drug-related pathologies, and the fiscal advantages of decriminalization.
"

I did read that study. The main insight was that drug prevalence was lower in 15-19 demographic with a attached hypothesis that a decrease in this age group portends lower decrease later. Portugal has seen an increase in drug prevalence in age group 20-24. I am not sure why that increase is discounted.

Of course it mentions the benefits about decrease in deaths and disease transmission which are pretty good in themselves but its hard to see if that they are a direct result of decriminalization. I hypothesize that decrease is deaths and disease has more to do with treatment and awareness than decriminalization itself. The contention that decriminalization made it possible to increase treatment and awareness is kinda self-serving.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:20 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


One gram of MDMA? That's 6 individual doses, give or take. The first day or two of that notional "10 days" might be fun, but I wouldn't want anyone near me within glowering radius by day 10.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:21 PM on March 27, 2013


pompomtom: ""Drug consumption has not increased severely. There is no mass chaos. For me as an evaluator, that's a very good outcome."

I guess avoiding catastrophe is one way to succeed but that's not what a good drug policy would target.


You do realise that there's an implied "We didn't lock up a bunch of people who have lives and jobs and friends and families and obligations and rights and stuff" as well? Drug policy is coming off a very low bar. Not being absolutely fucked up is, indeed, a win.

Chaos aside, how many non-violent Americans have been locked up (and, more barbarically, disenfranchised) in the same period?
"

The bar is indeed pretty low, I agree. I am happy to see this rational approach compared to stupid, blind approach most countries follow.

I would rather not "start sucking each other's dicks quite yet" that we have found the solution to manage drug usage in society.

I don't think decriminalization is the answer that we are looking for when it comes to preventing drugs from harming society. To me depenalization coupled with a good treatment program is a better response.

edit: added treatment program to depenalization as the better response.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:26 PM on March 27, 2013


I would rather not "start sucking each other's dicks quite yet" that we have found the solution to manage drug usage in society.

I think you're well into false dichotomy territory.

I don't see that recognising that Portugal has made progress on what was a significant issue for the country must necessarily be compared to fellatio, and I don't think that we need to wait around for some sort of perfect drug policy 'solution' to exist to recognise the improvements that have been made, and the social costs that have been avoided.
posted by pompomtom at 9:33 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think decriminalization is the answer that we are looking for when it comes to preventing drugs from harming society. To me depenalization coupled with a good treatment program is a better response.

Isn't that pretty much exactly what Portugal seems to have done?
posted by vidur at 9:51 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


pompomtom: "I think you're well into false dichotomy territory. "

By false dichotomy, I guess you are interpreting my post as "decriminalization is not a perfect solution hence its bad". But I never said/indicated decriminalization is bad.

The harshest interpretation you can give to my post is that "decriminalization isn't enough".

I don't see that using a famous quote to indicate the prevailing reaction towards any rational drug policy must necessarily be a bad thing and I don't think that we should be focusing so much on the quote rather than to recognize that there can be better solutions and see if we can discuss those solutions.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:53 PM on March 27, 2013


I guess you are interpreting my post as

I mean the idea that there is a solution, and that other approaches must therefore not be the solution.
posted by pompomtom at 9:58 PM on March 27, 2013


vidur: "I don't think decriminalization is the answer that we are looking for when it comes to preventing drugs from harming society. To me depenalization coupled with a good treatment program is a better response.

Isn't that pretty much exactly what Portugal seems to have done?
"

There is a difference between decriminalization and depenalization and Glen Greenwald actually brings that out in his study. What Portugal has done is essential stopped preventing people from using drugs. If you look at figure 1 in his study, the number of proceedings for drug use has increased slightly while the number of decisions increased first and then has continuously declined.

Now, that is something that I am not comfortable with. Because it indicates that for most cases where individual drug users are reported to them, they just record the case, postpone the decision and leave it at that.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:00 PM on March 27, 2013


pompomtom: "and that other approaches must therefore not be the solution."

Never said that. Don't think that. Just think that its not enough and there are better solutions.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:01 PM on March 27, 2013


I haven't looked deeply into effects of various drug policies

When I said i haven't looked deeply into it, it doesn't mean that i didnt even do a prelim wiki search.

But you're already expert enough to think that its not enough and there are better solutions.
posted by rtha at 10:04 PM on March 27, 2013


rtha: "When I said i haven't looked deeply into it, it doesn't mean that i didnt even do a prelim wiki search.

But you're already expert enough to think that its not enough and there are better solutions.
"

:) what do you think I have been doing since writing that post.

And I don't claim to be an expert. I made an opinion after reading through some things and am trying to discuss the possible solutions. Just like everyone else here. Feel free to point out/argue about the solutions, if you want.

Seriously, did my comments deserve a sarcastic reply?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:08 PM on March 27, 2013


Never said that. Don't think that.

You have my apologies for misinterpreting.

I do think that your comments have probably understated the social good that comes from not locking so many people up. If that's not the case, then let me say here: I think it's really good to think of all the people who haven't been locked up in Portugal over the last couple of years. Drug usage rates are not the only, or even necessarily the most important, measure of the success of a policy.

Yay Portugal!
posted by pompomtom at 10:09 PM on March 27, 2013


pompomtom: "Yay Portugal!"

Yay Portugal indeed!

Now what other novel approaches have societies adopted to manage the drug scenario, that would be an interesting discussion.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:20 PM on March 27, 2013


What indeed? Maybe you can put forward a few ideas. The effects of decriminalization in Portugal look very positive to me, especially considering how long this policy's been in place.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:23 PM on March 27, 2013


One thing that gives me hope is that Portugal is such a religious country, 84.5 percent Catholic in the 2001 census. This is markedly different from the Netherlands where 42 percent profess no religion at all. These are nearly opposite poles as the world stands today. If decriminalization is politically feasible in both places one dares hope that it's not politically impossible anywhere.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 PM on March 27, 2013


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "What indeed? Maybe you can put forward a few ideas. The effects of decriminalization in Portugal look very positive to me, especially considering how long this policy's been in place."

From what I have read so far, the Dutch model seems more appropriate. It has been changing a lot. But it seems more rational.

They differentiate between drugs based on risk of addiction and harm. Marijuana vs Heroin: very different response. And this is where I think Portugal is way off target.

They differentiate between occasional vs regular. I am not sure if Portugal has anything similar.

They focus a lot on treatment. Portugal is doing the same.

Accepted that the Dutch have their own social and historical context which enables their current laws and the results that they see but I think its better than the Portuguese approach.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:40 PM on March 27, 2013


In fact, my idea would be to base the drug policy on three things:

1. Individual harm potential and addictive nature of drug - More harmful and addictive a drug is, the harder it should be to get.
2. Level of addiction of a person - The more addicted a user is, the less easy it should be for him to get the drug.
3. Societal cost of a drug usage - the more adverse impact of a drug usage to society, more difficult it should be to get that drug.

makes sense?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:45 PM on March 27, 2013


But how do you make a drug more difficult to get without using the tactics of the war on drugs?
posted by jason_steakums at 10:57 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The post is about Portugal's experience in their groundbreaking effort to dispense with the prohibition approach. Prohibition, its effects, enforceablity, failings, pitfalls, is the subject of thousands of books and will be the subject of thousands more. I don't see why diving into that is preferable to discussing the topic of the post, which is intrinsically interesting and worth taking the trouble to comprehend properly on its merits rather than hastily waving aside and scurrying back to some naive hypothetical permutation of the same old ground.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:04 PM on March 27, 2013


2. Level of addiction of a person - The more addicted a user is, the less easy it should be for him to get the drug.

Surely you mean the other way around? You don't want people starting heroin habits, but if you deny it to addicts then they go elsewhere and you end up with acquisitive crime to pay for it.

Or maybe you haven't thought this through very carefully?
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 11:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


jason_steakums: "But how do you make a drug more difficult to get without using the tactics of the war on drugs?"

taxation or increasingly stiff fines for repeat violations or mandatory treatments or making it socially negative.

I am sure there are multiple ways. Some would work/be acceptable, some wont.

From my perspective, the key guiding principle for any drug policy is that "A society should work towards reducing addiction, self-harmful impact and total social costs". (this is where I think I am not comfortable with Portuguese approach. From what I have seen, Decriminalization reduces total social costs but doesn't focus on reducing chances of addiction and self-harm. That part is left to the treatment programs, where they might face problems once austerity challenges arise.)

Whether its implemented through taxation or fines or mandatory treatment or anything else, that would depend on a society's environmental, social and economic context.

I am not sure what would work in US but I think it will be interesting to understand the reasons behind decrease in use of cigarettes.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:14 PM on March 27, 2013


Isn't in each artist (7): "2. Level of addiction of a person - The more addicted a user is, the less easy it should be for him to get the drug.

Surely you mean the other way around? You don't want people starting heroin habits, but if you deny it to addicts then they go elsewhere and you end up with acquisitive crime to pay for it.

Or maybe you haven't thought this through very carefully?
"

I meant exactly what I said. Why should the drug be easily available to an addict? Treatment should be, but why the drug?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:17 PM on March 27, 2013


Are you using 'should' in the sense of practical solutions (the subject of the thread) or 'should' in the sense of moral judgement? Because I'm willing to engage with you on the first (see 'acquisitive crime') but not the second.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 11:21 PM on March 27, 2013


Practical solution of course.

As a practical matter, if drugs are easily available, it will be difficult to reduce the addiction. And I focus on addiction, not usage.

To elaborate a bit, if a treatment uses drugs to remove a user's addiction to some particular drug and is successful, more power to it.

Making Heroin or any other hard drug easily available to population is not something that I am comfortable with.

I don't have a moral attitude towards drugs. Or towards most things actually.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:25 PM on March 27, 2013


To use "acquisitive crime" as the reason to allow drug availability to addicts is like providing candies to a kid because they are gonna throw a tantrum and destroy something.

Doesn't work.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:27 PM on March 27, 2013


Addiction is pretty much a personal lifestyle choice, not a victim-laden crime. People should be allowed to ruin themselves in whatever way they choose as long as they aren't harming others in the process.

Putting value-laden judgement on addiction is just another way society makes it impossible to have rational discussions about matters like drug use. Would I rather people NOT be addicted? Sure. But I'm pretty real about these things, and I know plenty of people who cannot function without their 5 cups of coffee each morning. Should we take caffeine products off the shelves because people get addicted?
posted by hippybear at 11:33 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I would rather not "start sucking each other's dicks quite yet" that we have found the solution to manage drug usage in society. "

You sure? oral's pretty sweet when you're high
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


hippybear: " Would I rather people NOT be addicted? Sure. "

I think you agree that as an abstract concept, addiction is a negative for society. At least, that's what I get from this part of your statement.

In real terms, response to an addiction would depend on the impact of addiction on everyone else.

I will take the example of food. In itself, at an individual level, addiction to food/certain type of food doesn't harm others. But after certain point, when you have a significant proportion of people in a society addicted to food, it has a societal impact and the society needs to start having conversation about how to deal with it. And response can range from health campaigns to preventing large drink sizes.

There are few addictions which, if practiced by enough people, don't have a social impact or don't harm others.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:45 PM on March 27, 2013


To use "acquisitive crime" as the reason to allow drug availability to addicts is like providing candies to a kid because they are gonna throw a tantrum and destroy something.

Doesn't work.


What do you mean 'doesn't work'? What doesn't work?

Are you suggesting that 1) there's no link between addiction to illegal drugs and theft of property and/or 2) providing managed access to drugs does not reduce theft?

Wiki article on providing heroin to addicts

Have a look at some of the links. Heroin has been provided to addicts in Switzerland since 1994. I've seen a single heroin addict during my time here, who was pointed out to me by name as 'the' addict of the city. Very low rates of property crime too.

More here.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 11:49 PM on March 27, 2013


taxation or increasingly stiff fines for repeat violations or mandatory treatments or making it socially negative.

Taxation and fines would hurt poor drug users far more than anyone else. Treatment is always a better option than incarceration, and really, easier access to voluntary treatment should be a big goal. Making it socially negative... well, it already is. There are huge social stigmas. I also don't think shaming is helpful.

Making Heroin or any other hard drug easily available to population is not something that I am comfortable with.

That's why heroin is so profitable on the black market, though. Crime follows prohibition.

Also, to touch on the point earlier about public attitudes towards tobacco, I think there isn't really a parallel with the increasingly negative stigma against smoking, because that evolved more out of simply educating people about the realities of tobacco's health effects and the fact that even smoking in moderation can kill you horribly decades down the road, while the vast majority of recreational drugs can be used in moderation and you'll be okay - and treatment can save a lot of people who are unable to do that, while you can't 12 steps your way out of a lifelong increased cancer risk. So educating people about drugs in a frank and honest way, like we do with tobacco, probably won't have the same outcome. Still super important to educate truthfully about it, but at the end of the day I honestly picture it making drug use less stigmatized.

Personally, something I'd love to see is a hard line drawn in the hiring and firing laws between drug use that is currently affecting your work on the clock, and drug use that is not. And the option of treatment should absolutely come long before firing.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:55 PM on March 27, 2013


Isn't in each artist (7): "
What do you mean 'doesn't work'? What doesn't work?
"

I think the real question is "what is the objective towards which this solution doesn't work?"

of course there is a link between addicts and crime.

And i agree that providing heroine to addicts will keep them quiet/contained and prevent acquisitive crime.

But, i thought, the objective is not to prevent acquisitive crime, rather to remove the addiction. Towards this objective, making drugs easily available doesn't work.

I am not against using drugs as part of a treatment plan which will lead to the addict eventually not being an addict. I am not comfortable with just giving them the drug so that there is no crime.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:59 PM on March 27, 2013


of course there is a link between addicts and crime.

Glad we agree.

And i agree that providing heroine to addicts will keep them quiet/contained and prevent acquisitive crime.

Glad we agree.

But, i thought, the objective is not to prevent acquisitive crime, rather to remove the addiction. Towards this objective, making drugs easily available doesn't work.

I am not against using drugs as part of a treatment plan which will lead to the addict eventually not being an addict. I am not comfortable with just giving them the drug so that there is no crime.


Ah, here's where my earlier question about moral judgements comes in. Whether you, personally, are comfortable with something or not doesn't really matter in terms of practical solutions for social problems. And there's not much point in us monopolising this thread to discuss your discomfort with the solution that Portugal has found.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 12:04 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, TheLittlePrince, you might enjoy reading an early piece of work by Ben Goldacre on the subject of heroin addiction. It's entertainingly written and informative and may change your attitude towards the drug and the harm it causes.

Methadone and Heroin: An Exercise in Medical Scepticism
by Ben Goldacre, 1998 (aged 23 and 3/4)

posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 12:09 AM on March 28, 2013


Isn't in each artist (7): " Ah, here's where my earlier question about moral judgements comes in. Whether you, personally, are comfortable with something or not doesn't really matter in terms of practical solutions for social problems. And there's not much point in us monopolising this thread to discuss your discomfort with the solution that Portugal has found."

Does my use of "I am not comfortable with" make you think I am taking a moral stand? That expression is just a way of saying "I dont think it will .."

Now, whether "what I think or dont think" really matter in term of practical solutions for social problems depends on 1. how correct my thinking is and 2. How influential my thinking is

i don't think my thinking is very influential but i am sure its not totally incorrect.

You are correct about "not much point in us ....to discuss your discomfort". Hence, I bid you good night. Will probably talk to you in some other thread.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 12:12 AM on March 28, 2013


I live in Portugal. This is working. And one of the main indicators that it is working is that no one here ever even mentions it anymore. Only the foreign press every time they swing through to update the financial crisis story and scrape around for a positive angle that doesn't involve bacalhau.

Ironically enough, the government recently passed a law banning "smart shops", these little head shops that had sprung up everywhere like, er, mushrooms selling bath salts and other chemical garbage.
posted by chavenet at 12:30 AM on March 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have no desire whatsoever to see marijuana users arrested, but I'd really like it if they'd get a clue that smoking is smoking and they should keep it outside of non-smoking venues. I very much hope legalization helps on the politeness front.

Though I never had that problem in Portugal, so that's promising.
posted by asperity at 12:36 AM on March 28, 2013


TheLittlePrince: "To use "acquisitive crime" as the reason to allow drug availability to addicts is like providing candies to a kid because they are gonna throw a tantrum and destroy something. "

This is not really how it works. The problems for most addicts don't begin and end with drugs. The problem is that someone who is addicted ends up on the wrong side of the law simply due to that fact alone. If drugs are relatively cheap, easily available and reliable in dosage, then most heroin addicts don't overdose or cause damage to others. The harm reduction model is mostly concerned with removing the harmful side effects of drug addiction (e.g., penalties for possession and high cost in the black market) while allowing maintenance doses, which allows most heroin addicts to adopt stable patterns in their lives.

This does work for people who are already addicted, who are almost entirely consumed with the desire not to go through withdrawals rather than getting super high. The super high you get from heroin doesn't work once you reached the point where you're chasing the feeling of being normal. People who are at that point can return to stability if they don't have to deal with the black market, even if they don't quit heroin. This does put them in a much better position to consider quitting and benefit from therapy in the meantime. Criminalizing the addiction itself doesn't in reality make a heroin addict any more inclined to quit, and in fact only exacerbates the problem to where they are forced to resort to criminal behavior to get fixed. It's not necessary to put an addict in that position, which eliminates the criminal side-effects on the rest of society and treats the problem of addiction from a perspective of health care rather than the moralistic, punitive approach.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:12 AM on March 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


asperity: "I have no desire whatsoever to see marijuana users arrested, but I'd really like it if they'd get a clue that smoking is smoking and they should keep it outside of non-smoking venues. I very much hope legalization helps on the politeness front."

I think this is due to the fact it's illegal. It's not a problem for cigarette smokers to go outside, because they won't be bothered by cops if they do. Marijuana smokers often do go outside to smoke where the venue is not friendly to it, but it leaves you somewhat exposed to the eyes of the law. How much of a problem that might be varies greatly depending on the location. If it's legal, then smoking policies become much easier to enforce and make more sense, even in venues which are friendly to it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:23 AM on March 28, 2013


TheLittlePrince: " I am not against using drugs as part of a treatment plan which will lead to the addict eventually not being an addict. I am not comfortable with just giving them the drug so that there is no crime."

The reality is heroin addicts will typically continue to use the drug for up to about 20 years in the most severe cases, or until they overdose, but not "forever." In other words, the typical addict who lives through it will eventually quit, and most are addicted young, so it's something that can run its course. Addiction is not a moral failure of any individual. It is at its roots a health problem. Think of it like an often terminal disease, where people are forced into the shadows to seek temporary relief, which is expensive, adulterated and unreliable, because it's outside the protection of the law. We can greatly reduce the deaths caused by this disease if we stop criminalizing the disease itself.

Of course, as anyone who has been through addiction can tell you, it's the addict who is ultimately responsible for change. Providing a better framework for the addict doesn't guarantee they will make better choices, and addiction shouldn't be used as an excuse for bad behavior. But most of the bad behavior associated with heroin addiction can be greatly reduced or eliminated by removing the criminal penalties and providing easy and legal access, not only to the drug but to therapeutic tools to help with recovery, and in the meantime they can actually be productive in terms of employment and financial self-reliance. There is no cure that we know of, so for the time being, the best we can do is to allow the addiction to run its course while reducing the harm associated with it. Or, we can continue to approach addiction as a moral failing and worthy of punishment, in which case we will have more of the same criminal problems which affect the rest of society negatively, and at a high cost.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:52 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


But, i thought, the objective is not to prevent acquisitive crime, rather to remove the addiction.

Why? Heroin addiction is pretty manageable if you have access to good quality heroin for free or at low cost alongside support services, and in those circumstances it doesn't harm anyone else. The harm, to the user and wider society, is caused by prohibition.

Giving folk decent smack is more effective and a shitload cheaper than locking them up, endless cycles of rehab, treating them for medical problems caused by dodgy heroin/unexpectedly pure heroin/heroin with Anthrax in it, &c.

This is pretty much standard thinking, at least among folk who've been thinking about the problem for longer than the duration of this thread.
posted by jack_mo at 2:24 AM on March 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I had two Dutch friends in town recently who were bemoaning the changes of the marijuana/hash laws in the Netherlands.

Oh gods, yes. Ten years of rightwing governments has meant a return to the American model of the War on Drugs, where they're deliberately harassing coffee shops in several ways, the biggest change being the idea that you'd have to become a member of one to buy your dope and to do that you'd have to be resident in the country. That wou;d've been the deathknell to drug tourism in Amsterdam -- 25 percent of visitors come for the drugs rather than the musea. Local governments are also using zoning politics to restrict coffee shops, e.g. by decreeing they can't be within a given distance from a school. All of which means that coffee shops in the provinces, anywhere outside Amsterdam, have been dying out in droves and it now very much depend on how liberal your local municipality is whether or not you can get your semi-legal fix.

Fifteen years ago it looked likely that soft drugs, mainly pot, would be legalised entirely; these days countries like Portugal are zooming ahead of us.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:37 AM on March 28, 2013


They differentiate between drugs based on risk of addiction and harm. Marijuana vs Heroin: very different response.

Up to a point. The default police policy about heroin and other hard drugs is not so much to harass the users, as to go after the dealers and smugglers, leaving the management of long term hard drug users to various social services. Not that heroin use is a big problem anymore here; the number of users has continued to drop over the decades, with the biggest problems now being having to deal with the health problems of middle aged long term addicts. Sometimes this is done by actually giving them free heroin and a safe place to shoot up for those cases where treatment is no longer possible. At the very least such a user won't have to steal to get his fix then.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:42 AM on March 28, 2013


I've heard from acquaintances who still live in Lisbon that they're not getting robbed at knife point in the city centre anymore (which back in the late 90's happened every once in a while to pretty much everybody I knew there). I wonder if that is a real trend in drug related crime statistics or just anecdata.

I'm also facepalming at the caption "Addicts and dealers in the problem district of Casal Ventoso in Lisbon", when the photo looks to me like a family taking a stroll with their toddler and some people walking by. And wow, Casal Ventoso sure seems to have changed. It used to be scary as hell.
posted by sively at 2:59 AM on March 28, 2013


Latest Portugal crime statistics.
posted by chavenet at 5:12 AM on March 28, 2013


A recent op-ed, signed by four former BC attorneys general, calling for an end to marijuana prohibition

Nice job y'all, coming to this conclusion when you can't do a damn thing about it.

Also, FTFA:
His greatest concern is that his country has given up on the idea of a drug-free world. How, Pinto Coelho asks, is it possible to keep young people away from drugs,

Our world is saturated in drugs! Alcohol, nicotene, caffiene, etc.! Has been for thousands and thousands of years! How do you not know this?! "Oh, THOSE aren't drugs, they're .... traditional"

Bullshit.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:49 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I don't claim to be an expert. I made an opinion after reading through some things and am trying to discuss the possible solutions. Just like everyone else here. Feel free to point out/argue about the solutions, if you want.

I shut my laptop in sleepy irritation last night.

You're welcome to offer your opinions, but questions might better serve when the subject is complex and you don't really know anything about it, as you've acknowledged. A few hours' reading does not an expert make.

You might be interested in reading about Vancouver's Insite project, a safe injection site. Click over to their research tab. And read up on the work Carl Hart is doing on addiction. This article is pretty good.
posted by rtha at 6:07 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the suggestion I see in this thread that the fact that the unlooked-for and nonintuitive outcome of a reduction in drug prevalence in groups below age 20 doesn't presently extend to the 20-24 age group is somehow a failing of decriminalization is an absurdity. Talk about moving the goal posts. Certainly it is hoped in some quarters removing the financial incentive to create more users will reduce the numbers taking up drugs for the first time, and the numbers are actually encouraging. But the fact that it has not apparently had that effect at this point in one or more older cohorts when no-one said it would is not a defect of the plan.

Also, the comingling of different drugs of choice in a blanket "drug use" measurement when they have radically different uses and unequal clinical and social effects leads to a confusion of purposes. I'd also like to see figures on whether there has been a reduction in abuse of legal drugs like alcohol; because (for example) I'd personally rather share the road with marijuana users than alcohol users. (They might not drive very fast but they're far less likely to plow into a fruitstand and kill people.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:09 AM on March 28, 2013


But, i thought, the objective is not to prevent acquisitive crime, rather to remove the addiction. Towards this objective, making drugs easily available doesn't work.

In a functioning democracy, the police only enforce laws which are based on preventing one party from causing harm to another party. Police forces do not have the resources or the training to deal with addicts, or to enforce morality laws inside of someone's private property. That's why the drug war will never work. You'd have to make a quarter of the population a police official in some capacity and then have them regularly invade the private residences of everyone else.

That extreme still wouldn't stop drug use because the upper middle and tippy-top income levels are going to do drugs because that's what people do, whether it's alcohol, caffeine, heroin, coke, weed, whatever. The cartels would still have an incentive to cut heads off. Their product would just be much more expensive per hit, which would further pollute the drugs downstream like crack, and of course coke will get cut a thousand ways before it gets in the hands of your average punter.

The drug war is a war against human nature. We've been doing drugs for tens of thousands of years (and probably longer). If you have a personal problem with drugs, don't use them. If your neighbor is abusing their children because they are on drugs -- including alcohol, or ragey steroids -- they need to be reported to social services and making drugs legal or illegal won't change any of that, except that if all drugs are legal and available from a pharmacy, they will be free of the poisons that make half of them as bad as they are, and there will be no money flowing into the hands of gangs.

Additionally, the drug war was not started to help addicts. It was started as part of the Southern Strategy to help Republicans spread a campaign of fear about drug culture so they could scare white voters to try and maintain some share of political power.

It needs to end.
posted by tripping daisy at 6:19 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


That extreme still wouldn't stop drug use because the upper middle and tippy-top income levels are going to do drugs because that's what people do, whether it's alcohol, caffeine, heroin, coke, weed, whatever.

That upper economic strata can also be pretty good at getting prescriptions for their favorite drugs of abuse; another way in which our current enforcement regime effectively targets lower incomes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:33 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, to touch on the point earlier about public attitudes towards tobacco, I think there isn't really a parallel with the increasingly negative stigma against smoking, because that evolved more out of simply educating people about the realities of tobacco's health effects and the fact that even smoking in moderation can kill you horribly decades down the road, while the vast majority of recreational drugs can be used in moderation and you'll be okay

Isn't smoking marijuana about as bad as tobacco? (as far as health effects go). While I totally, totally agree that the drug war is much worse than the drugs themselves I find it hard to believe that the damage done to ones lungs is any different whether or not the vegetative matter is different? (including things like just plain wood smoke-after camping out I tend to have that raspy smokers voice from the campfire).
posted by bartonlong at 11:02 AM on March 28, 2013


Isn't smoking marijuana about as bad as tobacco?

Not really, no.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there any example countries or studies into allowing treatment groups to provide the drugs they are trying to treat as an alternative to full-on legalization? For example, providing a desk at the NA meetings where one can buy heroin without necessarily having to attend the meeting itself (so as not to dilute the attending population with those not interested in treatment).

It seems to me that this solution would have all the harm-reduction benefits of legalization but also have the beneficial side-effects of putting drug users automatically in contact with treatment groups who can issue appropriate warnings to those they sell to. I imagine this would make it more likely for addicts to seek out treatment since the barrier of entry is lower since they are going to the same physical location as the treatment every week anyway.
posted by ilikemefi at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2013


On second thought that would probably make it a lot harder for the people attending the meetings to stay clean.
posted by ilikemefi at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2013


Pretty much every program I'm familiar with that provides narcotics to addicts as part of a harm reduction strategy also provides social services explicitly aimed at overcoming addiction. It isn't like Bayer's out there with a roadside stand handing out free baggies.
posted by klangklangston at 1:43 PM on March 28, 2013


TheLittlePrince: "Because it indicates that for most cases where individual drug users are reported to them, they just record the case, postpone the decision and leave it at that."

Not everyone who uses drugs has a "drug problem" that requires treatment. This is the fatal flaw in the pretrial diversion schemes we have in some states here. Some to many do need treatment, although that treatment will be worse than useless unless and until the user decides it's time to quit.
posted by wierdo at 4:38 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]




I think you agree that as an abstract concept, addiction is a negative for society. At least, that's what I get from this part of your statement.

No, actually, I didn't say that at all.

I think addiction, as a concrete fact of life for some, is a negative for the addicted individuals. The negative effects of addiction on society, generally, seem to me to come from the way society treats addicts and the treatment of addiction and the way it handles addictive substances and their availability.
posted by hippybear at 5:58 PM on March 29, 2013


I'll bet Portugal has a lot less kids dying from synthetic drugs (that fake crap they sell in gas stations) with this policy.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:28 AM on March 30, 2013




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