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Will Godfrey Will Godfrey

Podcast: What Drug Decriminalization Has Done for Portugal

14 Substance


Portugal decriminalized all drug possession in 2001—meaning that anyone caught with up to about 10 days’ supply of any drug isn’t subject to criminal sanctions. The country chose to treat drug use as a health and social issue instead, scaling up its harm reduction, treatment and prevention efforts. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, both for people who use drugs and the wider community.

“While critics of the law warned that drug use would swell, it has not risen,” Portugal’s national drug coordinator, João Castel-Branco Goulão, recently wrote in the New York Times. We have seen significant reductions in HIV infections and in overdoses, as well as a substantial increase in new patients seeking drug treatment.”

In this podcast, Allan Clear, the executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, discusses the practicalities, philosophies and outcomes of Portuguese policy with one of its architects, sociologist Dr. Nuno Capaz of the Dissuasion Commission in Lisbon, part of Portugal’s Ministry of Health.