Decriminalization of Drug Use in Portugal

The Development of a Policy

Published in: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, v. 582, no. 1, July 2002, p. 49-63

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by Mirjam van het Loo, Ineke van Beusekom, James P. Kahan

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Drug use is an increasing problem in Portugal. In response, following the advice of a select committee, the Portuguese government has recently issued a number of laws implementing a strong harm-reductionistic orientation. The flagship of these laws is the decriminalization of the use and possession for use of drugs. Use and possession for use are now only administrative offenses; no distinction is made between different types of drugs (hard vs. soft drugs) or whether consumption is private or in public. Although most people favor decriminalization in principle, doubts have been expressed about the way the law will be implemented because the law only sets a framework for those communities that wish to undertake such activities-it is an enabling law. This has led to a considerable lack of clarity and increases the risk of dissimilarity of implementation in different parts of the country. The future will show the effects.

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