Decriminalization: A Love Story
November 7, 2017 4:19 AM   Subscribe

When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the eighties, one in ten residents slipped into the deep of heroin addiction—bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners—and Portugal fell into a panic.
posted by ellieBOA (5 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this. The changes in Portugal are remarkable. My wife, a native, was initially against legalisation and is one of the few things she now admits she was wrong about.

I honestly credit Portugal's ability to almost turn on a dime to its relatively small size as well as to the remarkable fact that the country's people are very united. Sure there are right wingers and left wingers and they often violently disagree but there isn't this deep hatred going on elsewhere.

At the moment, Portugal has one of the more left-wing (but not populist) governments in Europe. The current PM - Antonio Costa - is a Socialist and was previously mayor of Lisbon. I'm a fan of his. He seems to deeply care about the country and its people and is, in my view, taking the country in the right direction.

From the article:

Despite loud calls for change in America over the years, the White House has remained reluctant to address what drug policy reform advocates have termed an “addiction to punishment.” But if conservative, isolationist, Catholic Portugal could transform into a country where drug use is decriminalized, where same-sex marriage and abortion are legal, and where the current agnostic leader of a left-leaning coalition government can put forward motions to debate legalizing euthanasia, sex work, and, yes, the national production and sale of cannabis, a broader shift in attitudes seems possible. Or at least it does not seem like “an irresolvable problem, a ‘civilizational’ problem,” as the as the constitutional judge put it. But, as the harm-reduction adage goes: one has to want the change in order to make it.

posted by vacapinta at 5:36 AM on November 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

Lovely article. I need to pass this on at work.
posted by Samizdata at 8:40 AM on November 7, 2017

It is an interesting article, but makes it clear it isn't a full fix, just an improvement; Drugs are still destroying lives, and requiring hugely expensive programs to maintain, plus there is the problem at the heart of drugs aren't the problem, that points to the natural conflict with legal alcohol (and soon in Canada, cannabis.) I agree that locking people up seems counterproductive, and wouldn't be opposed to decriminalization for addicts, but would like to see a more nuanced approach to drugs that takes into account addiction mechanisms and such instead of claiming they are all the same.
posted by Canageek at 9:39 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

On the whole, I think societies are better served when addiction is treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. I hope we in the US eventually move in that direction, even if we admit that the opioid crisis has cost us far too many lives and something needs to be done about it. Locking people up is not the solution - treatment is. If only rehab got the same amount of money and resources that prisons have.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:15 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Good article! "Addiction to punishment" is right! Addiction to enforcing attachment as a forever-negative experience for those who fail at the "survival of the fittest" state and family fun games. Gabor Mate would argue (and I strongly agree) it's denying people the right to experience positive, healthy human connection as a legitimate biological need that's killing people... not the drugs. Makes the title of this article all the more fitting.
posted by human ecologist at 2:33 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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