An article on the claimed benefits from drug legalization in Portugal
Ten years ago, Portugal had some 100,000 heroin addicts -- about 1 percent of its entire population. HIV infections from injecting drugs were among the highest in Europe.
Now the addict count has been cut nearly in half. HIV infections from drug use have fallen more than 90 percent. And the policy shift responsible for such a dramatic improvement in Portuguese life is something U.S. lawmakers -- watching an escalating drug war on their southern border -- might consider worthy of some attention: decriminalization.
Ten years ago this summer, Portugal became the first country in Europe to decriminalize all illegal drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and even heroin. Hefty fines and prison sentences still await drug traffickers and dealers, but users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug are no longer considered criminals. Instead, they're referred to a panel comprised of a drug-treatment specialist, a lawyer and a civil servant, who usually recommend treatment -- and pay for it, too. If the users decline treatment and go back to abusing drugs, that's their prerogative.
But statistics show they're not doing that. Instead, about 45 percent of the 100,000 heroin addicts Portugal's Health Ministry recorded in 2000 had by 2008 decided to at least try to quit the habit, without the threat of jail time. And the number of new HIV cases among users fell from 2,508 in the year 2000 to 220 cases in 2008, Alun Jones, a spokesman for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told AOL News. "This was a major success," he said. . . .
I am also not sure how legalizing drugs in Mexico would stop the drug cartels because the cartels are formed to get drugs into the US. Now legalizing drugs in the US would have a big impact, but that is not what is being advocated here.
Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox criticized his country's military-led, U.S.-backed war on drugs, which has left more than 28,000 people dead since December 2006. Instead, Fox said Mexico should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs. . . .