Friday, August 3, 2012

Portugal did not legalize marijuana production and possession

Over the past few days, I have posted information about marijuana policy in the Netherlands from the American Society of Addiction Medicine's White Paper opposing state marijuana legalization initiatives.  Now on to Portugal, another country that marijuana legalization proponents often refer to.  However, when all of the facts about Portugal's drug policy are examined, it becomes readily apparent that what happens in that country is nothing like what legalization proponents are proposing in the United States, including Washington.

From the White Paper:

Portugal has decriminalized the use and possession of a 10-day supply of any illicit drug, including marijuana, changing it from a criminal offense to an administrative one.  Like the Netherlands, all drug sales and manufacturing -- including marijuana -- remain illegal in Portugal and are met with criminal sanctions.  The implementation of decriminalization for drug possession changed the way in which drug users are handled in Portugal.  Rather than being subject to arrest, drug users are summoned by the police to their local district's Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse (CDT), three-member groups in charge of evaluating and ruling on the drug possession offense.  CDT's dispense administrative punishments for most drug users, some of which are suspended if treatment is obtained, though there is no monitoring mechanism to ensure treatment participation or completion.  The large majority of CDT cases involve only marijuana.  There is limited evidence to identify the effects of Portugal's drug policy changes, and particularly to separate the effects of decriminalization from other changes recently made and the relevance of these changes for any other country, including the United States. 

Comparing the Portuguese experience with the decriminalization of marijuana possession with what is contained in I-502, the following things stick out.  I-502: 

-- does not just decriminalize marijuana possession but legalizes the growth, production, sale, and possession of marijuana creating a new free-market marijuana industry.

-- does not provide funding for the enforcement of the new regulatory system or laws.  Portuguese police issue citations to people they see possessing drugs and refer them to CDT's.

-- does not set aside additional money for publicly-funded substance abuse treatment.  Portugal has increased funding for substance abuse treatment.

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