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Drug Possession No Longer Crime in Portugal

by DRC Net Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2001 at 8:48 PM

Portugal decriminalizes possession of personal amounts of drugs.... reported anywhere in the U.S.?? Not if the ruling Taliban holds its power... rock the corporations!~!

6. Drug Possession No Longer a Crime in Portugal


In the latest sign of European rejection of US and UN-sponsored

repressive anti-drug strategies, Portugal's new drug laws went

into effect on July 1. Under the laws, debated last summer and

finalized in November, possession of personal amounts of any drug

is no longer a crime. Instead, possession of up to a ten-day

supply of any drug will be treated as an administrative matter

rather than a criminal offense. Persons caught possessing drugs

will have their stashes confiscated and be referred to a

commission of doctors, lawyers, and social workers who will

decide if they need counseling or treatment. Previously, persons

caught with drugs faced up to a year in jail.

Drug trafficking remains a crime, although dealing to pay for a

drug habit will be considered a mitigating factor.

United Nations International Drug Control Board (INCB) officials

immediately lashed out at the new law. INCB Deputy Head Akira

Fujino told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet: "There is a

clear trend in Western Europe to decriminalize use and possession

of narcotics and to view addicts as patients. But that seldom

solves the addict's personal problems nor reduces the demand for

narcotics," complained the prohibition bureaucrat. "Other

countries that have chosen a liberal approach such as special

injection rooms, are Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Holland, and

we are deeply concerned over this trend."

Citing the possibility of a spill-over effect for the rest of the

European Union, Fujino warned that: "The Portugese law can trap

more 'at risk' into dependency as well as increase the misery of

those already addicted. The law, in effect, says that it's OK to

consume narcotics."

Portuguese officials have more concrete concerns. The number of

hard drug addicts has escalated over the past decade, and

Portugal has Europe's highest HIV infection rate. According to

the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction

(http://www.emcdda.org), Portugal, with a population of ten

million, has between 50,000 and 200,000 drug addicts. By

contrast, the Netherlands, with 16 million inhabitants and a

liberal drug policy, has an estimated 25,000 addicts.

The new law reflects Portugal's turn to harm reduction and away

from repression in an effort to blunt the damage from drug

prohibition. "The idea is to get away from punishment and move

toward care," Portuguese government spokesman Carlos Borges told


That Portugal has decriminalized the possession of drugs is

apparently not newsworthy in the US. DRCNet has been unable to

find any mention of this story in mainstream media outlets in

this country.

(See DRCNet's previous coverage of Portugal's drug policy reform

at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/145.html#portugal online.)
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