Portugal’s Drug Policies pay off, US eyes lessons.   12/26/2010

Drugs in Portugal are still illegal. But here’s what Portugal did: It changed the law so that users are sent to counseling and sometimes treatment instead of criminal courts and prison. The switch from drugs as a criminal issue to a public health one was aimed at preventing users from going underground.  Portugal with an estimated 100,000 people — an astonishing 1 percent of its population — were addicted to illegal drugs. So, like anyone with little to lose, the Portuguese took a risky leap: They decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law in 2000.  Now, the United States, which has waged a 40-year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in tiny Portugal, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries — including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru — have taken interest, too.  Post by Mary.

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