ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR. 54 AUGUST 2009
THE TRUTH OF DECRIMINALISATION
Portugal simply became a more human and fair country.
The situation in Portugal has developed very positively since 2000, when Law 30 was approved, decriminalising the use of drugs. Of course, as a comprehensive settlement of the whole drug issue, decriminalisation is far from being acceptable, since drugs continue to be distributed by traffickers who inflate the price, impose criminal marketing methods and have minimal concern for product quality or the safety of consumers.
Now the State does not consider drug use as a crime, but as a simple violation that is countered with an administrative sanction. People who get caught with a quantity of a certain drug that meets their personal needs are
either considered as a sporadic consumer and sanctioned with a fine of several hundred euros. Or they are consided a regular consumer and directed to Commission for the Discouragement of Drug Use, formed by a judge, a psychologist and a social worker. Under these proceedings, drug users are saved from police brutality and omnipotence, and are instead put under the responsibility of social specialists who direct them to specialized health services called CAT (Addiction Treatment Centers).
Instead of being considered a criminal this person is seen as a patient. The truth is that this practice leads the problem drug consumer to approach health and social services. Once feeling that someone cares and supports and is willing to help reconstructing life, the consumers will start responding. Initially they will care most for their own health and after realizing that they are part of the “social whole”, they will realise that in this way, society is no longer the enemy but something of which they are a part of and in which they may be able to win if they follow certain rules.
Obviously the Portuguese Government installed mechanisms that are meant to supplement the law, which on its own would not have had great results. Therefore in all regions, provinces and cities with administrative competences, a CAT (Addiction Treatment Center) has been set up, staffed by physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers.
The staff of these services are psychologically and socially trained to deal with all cases, especially the most difficult. They have learned that treating the drug user as a human being who deserves respect produces almost immediate and amazing results. Someone who has been damaged, connected to a life of violence and crime, yet suddenly becomes a respected and respectful person, polite, and even civilized afterwards!
This is one very important way to limit the escalation of violence and start socialization instead. Someone who has nothing and only sees the contempt of society and therefore transforms frustration and pain into social revenge, is given the opportunity to realize the importance of getting social respect and will not afford to loose it again.
Under the prohibitionist regime, the system chooses to discredit, stigmatize and criminalize people who use drugs that are considered illicit (the only accepted drug, alcohol, is produced in Europe, North America etc).
But human beings have always used drugs. Recent scientific evidence demonstrates the use of drugs in the Ice Age. While life becomes simpler for people, drug consumption will probably continue to rise. Among people using drugs are some of the biggest human talents in art and humanity.
Prohibition has never prevented and will never prevent that. In stead it has created martyrs on a par with many other historical persecutions. Ruin the lives of drug users, arrest them, torture them, infect them with all kinds of diseases, kill them all and the State will wash its hands saying: they have only themselves to blame!
However as the relationship between supply and demand has been carefully studied by traffickers and economic vultures, everyone can figure out that only under prohibition can drugs be a lucrative business. So while it is being kept forbidden, what we lack now is to find out why people in the XXI century are so naive to believe that drugs are criminalised because of a health issue?
The worst of dictatorships is the one in which we are not aware that we are being manipulated.
Are Mr. Costa, the United Nations and all the governments and officials who support prohibition the Hitler and Stalin and Caligula of our days? Are they simply suffering from some unknown intellectual deficiency? We do not know the answer, but the result is the same: millions of human lives continue to be sentenced to death and suffering because of them! The Truth is already clear: the example of Portugal shows that it is a Lie to Criminalize!
The question now is to whom prohibition matters? Who has the power to kill millions around the world?
The State assumes that drugs are bad and therefore should be avoided, but people still want the alterations of consciousness that drugs offer and will not stop consuming. The issue is that no one wishes to give up a life and the responsibility in work and family matters just to enjoy a feeling. It is here that the state fails because it transforms a responsible consumption into a disastrous situation of crime, disease, imprisonment, suffering and death.
But the lie begins to die, whereas finally all lies turn out to be deceits.
Society is beginning to react, and starting to consider and require measures that are opposed to the current ones. These measures are seeking the most minimal of changes, always within the same boundaries. States are opting for modest, but definitive changes, like the case of Portugal and its decriminalisation of drug consumption. But also in Switzerland, Germany and elsewhere, the controlled distribution of heroin is helping the recovery of many people who are living in the worst conditions surviving only through petty criminality. Now, having their drugs made available by the state, they recover their health, their family life, they start working and paying taxes, and have become useful citizens in what we call society!
Due to the success of the decriminalisation of drug use, which was implemented without causing social alarm (read the report of the Cato Institute), Portugal is now preparing to move again. The Parliament is considering a bill for the legalization of cannabis, following an initiative of a small party called “Left Block” (Bloco de Esquerda), which recently has been on the rise and (according to the latest polls) may become a significant political force in the future.
The drafting of the law on cannabis occurred with the collaboration of Encod, thanks to regular contacts with the Block until today. The text of the bill can always be improved, but in my personal opinion it has been very well prepared and even provides ways to prevent abuse and contribute to the overall functioning of the state.
As last-minute news indicates, the Socialist Party (currently in government) will not obtain an absolute majority after parliamentary elections next September, so it will invite the Left Block to participate in the government! This would become the best opportunity we have had so far for the complete legalization of cannabis, including production, distribution and consumption.
The truth is that when news of the decriminalization of drug use in Portugal came out, the mainly North American prophets of doom announced chaos, predicting that the Portuguese beaches would be filled with misery and drug dealers .
But nothing of the kind happened, the state of law is strongly in place, the beaches are clean and beautiful. Portugal simply became a more human and fair country. All diseases related to drug consumption were sharply reduced.
If this is the real and final proof that legalization of drugs does work, then who is behind criminalization?
By: Jorge Roque, with the help of Peter Webster