Faced with a public health crisis, 10 years ago Portugal decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs, from marijuana to heroin, while imposing criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking.
As a result, according to a study in the British Journal of Criminology, overdose deaths are down, and more addicts are in. As to prisons: Since the new law, arrests for crimes related to drugs have fallen by almost two-thirds. Prisons fell from 119 per cent of capacity to 102 per cent. And the proportion of prisoners incarcerated for drug-related crimes was halved.
The Portuguese experience appears to be working and many believe that the Portuguese approach to the war on drugs should inspire other countries to review their policies for the treatment of drug addiction and the decriminalization of drug use.