A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

In July 2001, as part of a comprehensive new policy, Portugal decriminalized use, acquisition, and possession of all illicit drugs when conducted for personal use. Sales of all illicit drugs remained as criminal offenses. Ten years on, the reform has attracted considerable international attention. It has also been the subject of a number of divergent accounts on its impacts, with some commentators offering diametrically opposed policy conclusions from their evidence-informed analyses. Consequently, this is a policy choice that has been deemed both a “disastrous failure” and a “resounding success.”3 As two of the participants in this debate, we know that drug law reform is invariably difficult to study and involves sifting through multiple versions of evidence, but the divergences, contested debates, and assertions of “deceit,” “misinformation,” and “manipulation”4 have given rise to a clear example of “dueling certitudes”5 which is both frustrating and instructive. In an era where evidence, defined here as the body of putatively valid and reliable knowledge about drug use and related harms, is often implied to be the tested, trustworthy tool for generating policies “devoid of dogma”6 this case study provides a much-needed opportunity lo examine the way all sides of the drug policy debate can call upon and alternatively use or misuse evidence to feed into discussions of the worth, efficacy, and desirability of different illicit drug policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Approaches to Drug Policies
Subtitle of host publicationA Time For Change
EditorsMarten W. Brienen, Jonathan D. Rosen
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Chapter8
Pages137-162
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-45099-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-56765-2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Illicit drug
  • Lifetime prevalence
  • Drug policy
  • National drug control policy

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