The Example of Portugal: How to Decriminalise Cannabis without Anyone Making Political Hay of It

  • For 15 years the country has been devising appropriate rules to benefit users. Those from across all ideologies have endorsed its medical, scientific and research-related use, setting aside senseless struggles for power. Countries like the United States ought to follow their example. 

Some 24 countries, in addition to some US states, have moved with determination towards decriminalisation. Consumers in places that have taken this decision can now breathe a lot easier, as they will no longer have to face the threat of prison sentences, provided that they respect the limits set in each region.

Portugal, which managed to decriminalise many substances almost 15 years ago, is one of the most successful examples. A surprised Sharda Sekaran, spokesman for the US Drug Policy Alliance explained how Portuguese politicians, regardless of their ideologies, oversee cannabis policies and get involved with them, with no intention of winning votes.

In Portugal debate on the use of this plant has become part of everyday life and discussions, while incarceration levels are much lower than in the United States. According to the expert, the Iberian country has chosen "science, medicine and compassion over brute force," meaning that it is committed to current research by experts rather than the imposition of prohibition.

Politicians there have sought to place themselves in others' shoes and ask themselves if they would like to see a loved one in prison, or if they would prefer to support him in questions related to health and wellness. "This is probably the best starting point for any public policy," says Sekaran, adding that this has also meant drawing upon the advice of doctors and other health professionals to make these types of policies effective.

The most important thing is that consumption rates in the country have remained stable for more than a decade. Those in charge of its drug policy believe that the US and other countries taking the same path should learn from the European country and refrain from curtailing users’ freedoms at the expense of science and public health.


Comments from our readers

There are no comments yet. Would you like to be the first?

Leave a comment!

Contact us

Contact us