Decriminalization of Drugs in Portugal

by Manuel Pinto Coelho
I have seen the national, and particularly the foreign, press trumpet with strange insistence, on the eve of electoral processes in Portugal, the “resounding success” of the decriminalization of drugs initiated in 2001 by the Socialist government, — ignored by all other European countries and to the detriment of the guidelines and conventions of the United Nations to which the country is a signatory.


Respect for the true facts obliges the Association for a Drug-Free Portugal (APLD) to inform the Portuguese of the true consequences of implementing the current policy, independently of party affiliations. Portugal adopted a rather original and undoubtedly questionable solution (?) for managing the scourge of drugs.

The recent articles of the British weekly The Economist and of the Cato Institute in Washington promoted the governmental options. It is a legitimate, perhaps politically correct right. The problem is the rest: the vexing manipulation of the facts and the figures is unacceptable.

1 – [reportedly] In Portugal in 2006, the total number of deaths from overdose did not increase radically relative to 2000 and the percentage of drug addicts with AIDS decreased (from 57% to 43%). Exactly the opposite happened. We are witnessing a worrisome deterioration of the situation. The facts demonstrate this: “with 219 deaths by overdose per year, Portugal has one of the worst outcomes, with one death every two days. Like Greece, Austria and Finland, it is one of the countries registering an increase of more than 30% in 2005,” and “Portugal continues to be a country with the highest incidence of AIDS related to the consumption of injected drugs (85 new cases per million inhabitants in 2005, when the majority do not exceed five cases) and the only one that registered a recent increase, with 36 new cases estimated per million inhabitants in 2005, when in 2004 there were only 30″ (European Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction–EODDA, 2007). Further, according to the European report, Portugal registered 703 new cases of infection in 2006, corresponding to a rate eight times higher than the European average!

2 — The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal in no way reduced the levels of consumption, on the contrary. In reality, “consumption in Portugal increased 4.2% — the percentage of persons who took drugs at any time in their life rose from 7.8% in 2001 to 12% in 2007 (IDT – Instituto de Droga e da Toxicodependencia / Institute of Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2008).

3 – As for cocaine use, “the new data (found for 2005-2007) confirm the growing tendency registered last year in France, Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark and Portugal” (EODDA, 2008). As for the rate of cocaine and amphetamine use, these doubled in Portugal; the confiscations of the latter drug increased seven times between 2001 and 2006, the sixth highest in the world (WDR — World Drug Report, 2009).

4 — with regard to hashish: — “it is difficult to evaluate the intensive consumption trends for cannabis in Europe, but among the countries that participated in both studies in the field, between 2004 and 2007 (France, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal), there was a mean increase of about 20%” (EODDA, 2008).

5 — in Portugal, since decriminalization was implemented, the number of drug-related homicides increased 40%. “It was the only country in Europe to show a significant increase in homicides between 2001 and 2006 (WDR, 2009).

6 — a recent study awarded by the IDT to the Centre for Opinion Research and Surveys (CESOP) me Catholic University of Portugal, based on direct interviews on the shoots of Portuguese relating to drug addiction (which strangely, was never published, reveals that 83.7% of the respondents consider that the number drug addicts in Portugal increased over the last four years, 66.8% consider that accessibility of drugs in their neighborhoods was easy or very easy, and 77.3% said that drug-related crime had increased (“Toxicodependencias” No. 3, 2007).

This is the pungent Portuguese reality with relation to drugs and drug addiction.

For the Portuguese government, drug addicts are seen essentially as sick people. It is an inexpensive and suicidal attitude for the public treasury. They pretend to be sick and the government pretends to treat them!

Decriminalization of use, possession and acquisition for use means penalization only when another crime is added to the charge of consumption, which almost always has a mitigating effect. Legalizing the crime committed by “drugged” persons (or by “sick people” – sic) does not seem to be the most efficient way to combat crime, as witnessed by the exceptional rate of drug-related homicides compared to other European countries. Facilitating access to the drug will not be the way to reduce consumption or reduce drug addiction and associated criminality.

It is really curious what is happening in Portugal: drug addicts, with the tacit support of the government, invoke their status as “sick people” in order not to be punished for their crimes but then forget that they are “sick” and pose as free responsible persons who decide whether or not to be treated!

To deem the drug addict a sick person and not a criminal, by the route of decriminalization, the state cannot opt to feed the “sickness” instead of curing it, through a policy that prioritizes “harm reduction”!

Resounding success? The results are right in front of your nose!

Translated by Don Hank

Manuel Pinto Colho, President of the APLD (Association for a Drug-Free Portugal)


Original Portuguese language article:


Reprinted with Permission: July 10, 2011 LAIGLESFORUM

Since 2006, he has been the owner/operator of the Christian news and views site Laigle’s Forum ( His straightforward and common-sense articles on politics, economics, science, government and culture have been published in WorldNetDaily, Canada Free Press, Christian Worldview Network, Etherzone, FedUpUSA, Renew America, Desert Conservative and Midia Sem Mascara. His extensive language background leads him to believe that the founders meant what they said in the Constitution, God meant what He said in the Scriptures and the grassroots are the true authorities on natural language, word definitions and the government that is best for them. He is also the founder of Lancaster-York Non-Custodial Parents, a volunteer organization that provided Christian counseling for non-custodial parents.

One thought on “Decriminalization of Drugs in Portugal

  1. Thank you for this, Mr Coelho. I am certain you are a good and sincere person, and although I disagree with some of your points this reply is not an ad hominem attack by any stretch of the imagination.Apparently you are a conservative. I am a libertarian and have been thinking this afternoon of the differences in our philosophies as the result of reading your article.There are two primary distinctions in these outlooks, as I see it. The first has to do with war. But I shall save my comments for any future posts from conservatives about their notions of conflict. However, the second has to do with Choice, and I shall say a word about that as your article at heart deals with it.As an American it would be impolite for me to comment on your country Portugal, but the problem of drugs affects us in the States as well, and I can address how conservatives look at our drug problem.To a first approximation, conservatives feel it is incumbent upon them to legally make others follow conservative notions of right and wrong–about the use of drugs and about other activities as well. Smoking pot is wrong to a conservative so laws are enacted to punish those who indulge in this wrong.At the same time conservatives are usually deeply religious, particularly they are often conservatively Christian. Each Sunday Jesus is worshipped and churchgoers learn how they may imitate Him. Sorry to say, the conservative attitude towards drugs and their Sunday activities involves them in a contradiction in terms. Or perhaps a better way to say it is that it involves them in actions that are antithetical to one another.The gift Jesus gave us by the Crucifixion is Liberty. The ability to choose, to follow Him or not–with the attendant consequences graphically spelled out in the Bible–to create our own lives following His dictates or not. He does not force us to be good. That is up to us. But in legally forcing others to be good, to not indulge in ‘bad’ behavior (for example smoking pot), we are not imitating Jesus at all. I doubt you meant to be anti-Christian, but that is import of your logic.There are other problems with your article. An important one is your statistical examples.Statistics is the essence and soul of any research.I spent 30 years of my life studying cancer and participating in research as to how best to treat it with two international groups of medical schools, oncologists, and statisticians; and with my own medical school and doing my own studies. Except for the work done alone, I was often low man on the totem pole but got to experience and understand what my statistical betters were doing when they designed and criticized studies in how neoplasms should be optimally treated. So I think your statistical examples leave something to be desired.Another problem is your implication that legalizing drugs results in more crime. I do not believe that a minute and think the conclusion is as the result of a.) conservative presumption to begin with and of b.) faulty statistical analysis in the conclusion.Decades ago the ‘war against drugs’ in this country was irretrievably lost. We could hardly give away drugs on street corners more efficiently than in getting them into the hands of those who want to use them by means of our present system of illegal distribution. Our prisons are full of harmless people who have run afoul of drug laws. The only persons benefiting from society’s response to the use of these ‘wrong’ drugs are government agencies like the DEA, which fights multiple wars in various countries against producers and distributors of illegal drugs, or like the police departments charged with drug interdiction and warders of prisons, etc. (And—to cite by now what is a cliché—what part of Prohibition do we not understand?)Can drugs cause problems. Of course. So can alcohol. So can obesity. Hypertension. Improper diet and torpor. Foreign dictators. Tsunamis. The world is full of problems and of evil acts. They began with the first bite of the Apple and will continue until the Last Trump. Taking away by law people’s liberty to put into their bodies what they wish is as useless—and as anti-Christian–as are the many wars we fight to nation-build in countries that do not want our form of government, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. But that is a subject I said I was not going into so shall not say anything further.Best blessings,Dick Lanham (The Reverend Richard J Lanham, MD)

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