A study conducted by the British Journal of Criminology has concluded that Portugal's experimentation with drug decriminalization has been mostly successful. Drug use among youths has decreased, there are more drug users in treatment, and local law enforcement have been able to focus on big-time drug traffickers.
There is one caveat. The study shows that experimentation with drugs have risen. Kevin Drum concludes from the data that more Portuguese youth are trying drugs, but fewer are turning into long-time users.
This may be the case. I would like to see more evidence in Portugal and other countries. Either way, it makes sense that Portugal's experiment might have been fruitful. The drug prohibition in the United States has been a huge failure. Americans continue to consume more drugs than any other nation in the world, despite the billions of dollars spent on preventing this from happening.
A conservative approach to drug policy ought to focus on the most effective method for limiting drug use while not crashing the budget. There is a part of my conservative soul that believes that drug use is immoral and the users of such drugs should be punished. But the United States' current prohibition policies have done nothing to stem the flow of drugs into the United States or lower the demand for drugs among Americans. Furthermore, our prohibition policies have only fueled the violence and destruction seen in the drug war in Mexico.
I am going to be posting more on drug policy in the future, but let me first throw out a suggestion. How about the United States follow in the footsteps of Portugal and decriminalize the use of pot. Furthermore, we could adopt for drugs the alcohol policies of Canada, Sweden, and Virginia (liquor). That is, the government runs stores that sell pot (alcohol for the above mentioned places). The government could sell these drugs at a slightly higher price than market value as a small prohibitive measure, but not high enough to encourage illegal distribution. It would be almost like a tax on drugs (taxing bad behavior is good policy, right?). Furthermore, the drug traffickers in Mexico would have the opportunity of dealing directly with the United States government instead of trying to illegally bypass law enforcement and battle over plazas (drug routes). American law enforcement would also be free to target major drug dealers, instead of spending valuable resources on housing potheads.
Decriminalizing small drug use is not crazy. William Buckley once argued for it. He was one of the first political pundits to admit that the war on drugs has been lost.
More to come...
Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist