Ten years ago, Portugal was considered the biggest drug supermarket in Europe. But in a bold move, Portuguese politicians decided to decriminalize the possession of any illicit drugs -- from Marijuana to heroin -- and, instead, concentrate their efforts on stopping distribution and trafficking. Their goal: easing the burden on their criminal justice system and improve its citizens overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
When the decriminalization went into effect, people were expecting the worse; but a decade later statistics are showing some surprising results:
[...] there's evidence that Portugal's great drug experiment not only didn't blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon's troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized -- indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
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