Portugal progresses toward integrated cannabis regulation
Proposed legislation would authorise growing for personal use and the creation of Cannabis Social Clubs
Thursday, October 25, 2012
In recent years there has been much talk of the so-called “Portuguese model,” based on an initiative that led to the use of illicit drugs being decriminalised in 2001. In fact, it is often said that Portugal was the first country in Europe to decriminalise drug use de jure, while Spain, for example, took that step de facto for the first time in 1974, except that it was not through a specific law but rather as a result of a Supreme Court ruling.
In any case, the decriminalisation process taken forward in Portugal undoubtedly serves as a clear example of the fact that showing greater tolerance to drug users does not lead to an increase in consumption. On the contrary, in Portugal’s case all the indicators show a reduction in the use of illicit drugs following this move, while the problems associated with such use also declined.
Nevertheless, Portuguese-style decriminalisation has immense loopholes and contradictions, such as the fact that the illicit growing of psychoactive plants (of which cannabis is the most common) is still considered a crime, even when it is destined for personal use. This contradiction, which permits the possession and use of small quantities but not self-supply, means that drug users are forced to depend on the illegal market. Furthermore, possession for personal use is punishable as an administrative offence. Dissuasion Commissions (whose members are legal advisers, psychiatrists and social workers) have been established and are able to impose fines or community service. Another of their roles is to persuade addicts to enter treatment programmes. Most of their rulings have led to the legal proceedings brought against non-addicted drug users being suspended. Around ten per cent of cases have been settled with a fine.