That will never work – decriminalizing drugs

They said it would never come down - Berlin Wall Nov 10, 1991.

They said it would never come down – Berlin Wall Nov 10, 1991.

The nature of being a radical is often people simply dismiss your ideas as things which will never work or could not happen.  Then CIA analyst Robert Gates in the 1980s said that the Berlin Wall would not come down in his lifetime or his children’s lifetime.  Gates who would become Bush 2 and Obama’s secretary of defense was completely wrong.  South African President P. W. Botha said Nelson Mandela would not be released early and apartheid would endure, in a few short years he would be wrong.

An uncomfortable image for P. W. Botha, certainly

An uncomfortable image for P. W. Botha, certainly

I have blogged about how the business press and government leaders predicted terrible black outs in Japan if it closed all it’s reactors after the Fukushima accident.  All the reactors are closed, have been for months.  No black outs.

And we hear endlessly in the US as part of the “war on drugs” that decriminalization is not a solution and will only make a bad situation much worse.  Well, if Portugal is to be any guide, these fearful forecasts are also wrong.  Taking straight from this article:

On July 1st, 2001, Portugal decriminalized every imaginable drug, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin. Some thought Lisbon would become a drug tourist haven, others predicted usage rates among youths to surge.Eleven years later, it turns out they were both wrong.

Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labelling them as people affected by a disease. This time lapse has allowed statistics to develop and in time, has made Portugal an example to follow.

What really happened?

  • Number of addicts nationally was cut in half over 11 years
  • Portuguese drug use rates are now some of the lowest in the EU
  • Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have decreased more than addictions

A simplification of a complex problem

A simplification of a complex problem

 

In the US over half our tremendous prison population are serving time for drug related offenses.  In Portugal addicts are treated like they have a disease and helped.   In the US they are treated like criminals and locked up.  Could such a policy work in the US?  Well, we have some powerful examples, like the decriminalization of marijuana in California leading to over $1 billion in saved legal fees for the state, just from minors not being arrested.

Demonstrated failed solutions.  But nothing else is possible.

Demonstrated failed solutions. But nothing else is possible.

But my forecast (being clearly connected to absurdity of prediction) is that we are within a decade of seeing wide spread legalization of marijuana in the US.

And the next time someone tells you decriminalization can’t work.  Tell them about Portugal, where it already is.