Monday, August 31, 2009
Decriminalization reduces drug problems
Mexico has decriminalized possession of small amounts of formerly illicit drugs. In this column I wrote for the Register's Sunday Commentary section, I explain that it's a logical and constructive step. It is little known -- though becoming better-known since Glenn Greenwald did a paper for Cato -- that Portugal decriminalized possession, use and acquisition of all the "illicit" drugs amounting to about a 10 days supply. The results have been dramatic, but in the opposite direction of what most people predicted. Portugal, which had among the highest levels of drug use and ancillary problems -- transmission of AIDS and other diseases, deaths -- in Europe in 1999, now has some of the lowest levels. The levels of all the European countries are dramatically lower than the United States, which has among the strictest laws and the most punitive approach in the relatively developed world (Iran still has the death penalty and still has a growing problem). Decriminalization is likely to make an unmanageable drug problem somewhat manageable. Of course I'd still prefer full legalization, giving marijuana the same legal status as parsley, but any liberalization would be welcome.