The Portugal experiment works

‘This Is Working’: Portugal, 12 Years after Decriminalizing Drugs in Speigel Online.

Another evaluation of the Portugal experiment in drug policy, now after 12 years, continues to show that it’s much better policy than the lock-them-up approach to drug policy that we have here.

Kevin S. won’t like this article – he’s always going on about how the Portugal experience is “overstated,” which is odd since the supposed goal of SAM (less incarceration more treatment) is exactly what’s going on in Portugal.

Where I agree with Kevin is that Portugal is not legalization. It is decriminalization.

Portugal is a good step, an important lesson, and a demonstration that the sky doesn’t fall when you remove criminal penalties, providing material support for the right move: regulated legalization.

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21 Responses to The Portugal experiment works

  1. DeeDeeKing says:

    Kevin Sabet doesn’t like much that disturbs his head-in-the-sand view of the value of continued prohibition. He reminds me of the drug war’s King Canute, sitting on the beach and screaming at the incoming tide to get back to where it used to be. Too vain and stupid to realize that the battle for hearts and minds has been lost already, and all he’s really playing for at this point is a messy stalemate.

    This made me laugh. Some classic stoner songs from the 30s and 40s.

  2. claygooding says:

    Kev-Kev’s claims that decriminalization/legalization will not effect the numbers of patients seeking treatment for marijuana addiction don’t add up,,since over 70% of the marijuana addicts in treatment are there because they were forced unto it by the justice department or employment requirements.
    Only appx 10% of marijuana addicts are “walk-ins” seeking help and that is what Kev-Kev and his fellow society of addiction specialists will have to work with or less.- when prohibition ends.
    And the sooner America wakes up and figures out Kevin Sabets game the sooner we will stop hearing his weak ass shit.

    • War Vet says:

      I think you’ll see more people go into rehab and counseling after the dope is legalized since it removes the hypocrite barrier. If a fat man won’t go to food rehab, why should a meth head then . . . if fat parents cannot get their fat kids taken away by the DOJ and DHS, then why is it bad for parents to cook meth near their children? A lot more drug users will see some form of treatment or at least dope management once the hypocrite factor is gone. When a man with a cigarette or cheeseburger addiction is telling you that you are a drug addict who needs help, it’s hard to believe them in a prohibition environment. The War on Drugs ignores drug addiction because of the law. Pot has a number of bad side affects that proper counseling could negate, while legalizing drugs could focus on the non drug aspects of drug addiction, i.e.: using drugs because of a troubled past and not focusing on drug addiction based on the use of drugs. I would love to see some sort of drug counseling group that works on the deeper issues than just the drugs themselves. These Kevin prototypes live their life believing that drug use leads to drug addiction, when in all reality drug use plays but the tiniest role in drug addiction . . . blaming someone’s daily use of heroin because they are a heroin addict makes as much sense as bananas are yellow because of the Wall Street Journal’s story on Disneyland. Most drug addiction doesn’t come from drugs, but from the deeper issues leading one to take drugs. Destroy the hypocrisy of the drug laws, then people can be encouraged to seek deep into themselves. We might discover a whole lot more heavy pot users going into counseling when they discover that a stinging sensation still exists though the pain of drug prohibition is gone. Drug prohibition is a way for man not to solve, let alone see his own problems. Drug prohibition allows non-drug users to not seek treatment because their lifestyle is not prohibited and thus ‘not bad’ or ‘not as bad as that one guy’.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Something that we must keep front and center in our minds about the nanny staters is that which appears to be utter fantasy today can be their reality tomorrow. In this particular instance tomorrow was in 2011.

        An Obese Boy Is Placed in Foster Care. Can It Help?

        There simply are no rational limits to what such people will advocate “for the cheee-ee-ldren.”

  3. divadab says:

    Removing the penalties but maintaining the prohibition is the way for States to overcome prohibition without triggering federal preemption. This is how NY and MOntana and WA ended alcohol prohibition in the twenties.

    Why didn’t CO and WA follow this approach in favor of an approach that guarantees federal involvement? TAX REVENUE!

  4. Jean Valjean says:

    Kevin’s latest gig should be called SHAM, not SAM….his stated purpose of “less incarceration more treatment,” as he well knows, is entirely dependent on the threat of incarceration to force people into “treatment” which they do not need. Stalemate for Kevin is victory because SAM only really exists to keep the drug war status-quo intact. He’s a firm advocate for justice delayed because he secretly knows it’s justice denied. Shame on you Sabet.

  5. CJ says:

    yeah jean hahaha SHAM youre right and mark kleimans gig should be SHAMU

    yea pete i agree. looking forward the thing that pisses me off the most is decriminalisation. i predict the prohibitionists will fall back on prohibition towards the end. theyll realize inevitably their position is lost. its like vietnam at the end. now rather than bow out and pull out they’ll concede half their profits etc. to maintain the other half by keeping a decriminalized market. They dont want to and at the moment obviously they dont have to but they know it’s always there to bridge the gap between the here and now and legalization. Inevitably decriminalisation will serve our opponents very well and if were not careful they’ll turn that into a 50 year thing before it crumbles. Decriminalization is indeed frightening to me.

  6. stlgonzo says:

    OT:Thousands of armed vigilantes takeover Mexican town, arrest police and shoot at tourists after ‘commander’ is killed and dumped in the street

    “The self described ‘community police’ and arrested 12 officers and the town’s former director of public security, who they accuse of taking part in the killing of Guadalupe Quinones Carbajal, 28, on behalf of a local organised crime group.”

    • mmm says:

      Is this how prohibition will finally end—starting with a Mexican Spring?

      Will we get to lynch Kev?

    • kaptinemo says:

      The majority of the weapons displayed in the pix do not appear to be military ones. Nor are the majority of them semi-auto versions of the same, but rather old fashioned bolt-actions. Which generally can be taken to mean that this is a genuine civilian uprising.

      We may be witnessing the beginning of another Mexican revolution.

  7. kaptinemo says:

    Some real gems in the Portugal article:

    “”At the point when we designed the law, we had hardly any data to draw on,” Goulão relates. “We weren’t the least bit certain this would work.”

    So, tiny Portugal, which has even more at stake than the US due to it still being a rather poor country, is willing to risk more than the US? And Kevin and Co. are soooooo pee-their-pants terrified at the prospect of our doing the same? (Sardonic, mocking laughter at the sheer pusillanimity of it.)

    But this gets even closer to home for Kev & Co….and serves to illustrate the real reason behind official opposition to drug law reform:

    “It’s important that we prevent people from buying drugs, and taking drugs, using every method at our disposal,” says Manuel Pinto Coelho, 64, the last great opponent of Goulão’s experiment. Pinto Coelho wants his country to return to normalcy, in the form of the tough war on drugs that much of the rest of the world conducts.

    Pinto Coelho is a doctor too. He (note past tense -k.) has run rehab centers and written books about addiction. Now he’s at odds with former colleagues and with “the system,” as he says.

    His greatest concern is that his country has given up on the idea of a drug-free world. How, Pinto Coelho asks, is it possible to keep young people away from drugs, when everyone knows exactly how many pills can legally be carried around? He still believes deterrents are the best form of prevention and that cold turkey withdrawal is the best treatment method. He is also fighting the extensive methadone program Portugal began as part of its drug policy reform, which now provides tens of thousands of heroin addicts with this substitute drug.

    These days, Pinto Coelho earns his living running diet clinics (Emphasis mine – k.)

    Which I imagine are not as profitable as ‘treatment centers’. Kev and Co. see a similar future of penury advancing. Having had financial lips clamped on the Gub’mint teat for so long, they’ve forgotten how to do real work.

    • allan says:

      Kap, I’m not so sure it is/was teats upon which their lips were clamped… just sayin’.

      • claygooding says:

        Does congress have “Don’t ask,don’t tell”?

        I hope I never dream of a world drug free,violence free,or catastrophe free,,,because what does not kill you does make you stronger(and sometimes quicker)for the next unplanned situation waiting around the corner.

        I still think if I lived on any coast but especially New England where recent hurricane damage raised water levels,,,where they will be if icecaps continue melting in a few decades,,,I would be hunting higher ground or investing in a houseboat.

        • kaptinemo says:

          “…,because what does not kill you does make you stronger…”

          Clay, you inadvertently reminded me of something, thanks to your Nietzsche quote. And given the snippet from the article, it ‘accidentally’ ties in with something mentioned above.

          Here’s another Nietzsche quote, that, given what Mr. Coelho and his ilk believe, is especially apropos:

          ““But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangmen and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had—power.” (Emphasis mine -k.)

          Coelho wants to make those already suffering from opiate addiction suffer even further through ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal. This desire to punish is a common behavioral attribute of sado-moralists. It is also a common attribute of fascists. Birds of a totalitarian feather really do flock together. And there’s always Hell to pay when they get their hands on the buttons and levers of power…as the DrugWar so aptly demonstrates.

        • Opiophiliac says:

          Kapt, it’s interesting how many authoritarian, sado-moralist types are attracted to drug “treatment”. Now there are good, empathetic and caring people who work in drug treatment industries and they should not all be painted with the same brush, but it does attract a lot of quacks advocating downright sadistic forms of “treatment” (see Straight Inc and Melvin Sembler).

          I tend to think this arises in part because addicts are relatively powerless, and those in the treatment industry are viewed as acting altruistically. Someone unfamiliar with Sabet’s doublespeak would probably think he’s a reasonable, caring guy worried about the poor druggies. The fact that he advocates mandatory drug “treatment” (read: re-education) for all illicit drug users is what makes him a totalitarian prick.

          You are right too about the “cold turkey” treatment. There is no evidence that the severity of the withdrawal in any way helps someone get over their addiction. This treatment is inhumane and wrong, and may even be fatal in addicts with already compromised health. The purpose of a “cold turkey” detox is to make the addict suffer.

        • Additional says:

          The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate, which is to say: upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.

          They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.

          —from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during alcohol prohibition (1919-1933):

        • War Vet says:

          Hay Kapt, is that quote you used found in Nietzsche’s ‘The Gay Science’? I think it is found in that book.

        • kaptinemo says:

          WarVet, it came from Thus Spake Zarathustra, which you can download for free, here

        • War Vet says:

          I’ve only read a little bit of his ‘Thus Spake’ . . . but most likely he also referred to it again in his ‘The Gay Science’ since I’m to understand that he recycled a lot from previous works or even future works when writing it, at least that’s what Kaufman states as he translates it and adds footnotes. The one book I don’t think he ever repeats is his ‘Birth of Tragedy’, with the exception of talking about Wagner and his music. Hmm, you just made me come to think of his ‘Owning Slaves is a sign of upright moral character’ sections he emphasis when talking about the Greeks and Romans . . . I guess the amount of people you arrest for not committing a crime and lock up is a ‘Greek’ sign of morality, since to own slaves is a symbol of ‘good character’ and ‘moral fortitude’ in the ancient times. Therefore according to Nietzsche, it’s impossible for a cop or a jailor arresting people for an artificial crime to be called Christians since Christianity valued morality based on a ‘help others’ model and not an ‘own others’ ancient model. I think Nietzsche would call the American DOJ an anti-Christian group completely stripped away of the Judeo-Christian ethics since being arrested for a non-crime is the equivalent of owning slaves and logic would dictate that cops and judges etc are into pantheism, at least subconsciously speaking. Of course the prohibition of a plant only comes about by a group of people who in fact killed God, at least according to ‘The Gay Science’, hence according to Nietzsche, our DOJ is totally void of the Judeo-Christian ethics and morality and more in par with the morality of ancient Greece . . . Christians cannot own slaves, which would have also logically made the southern slave owners into polytheists as well, at least according to Christian doctrine and Neitzsche.

  8. Jean Valjean says:

    The drug war as ethnic cleansing from Jarecki’s The House I Live In. David Simon, creator of hard-hitting drama The Wire, gives his take on the absurdity of the US war on drugs.

    full length interview here:

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