By Heather Knight, San Francisco Cronicle

San Francisco likes to think of itself as on the cutting edge of everything. If it’s smart and compassionate public policy, the thinking goes, it probably started here.

But any quick walk around downtown - with widespread human misery on full display - makes it obvious our city doesn't have all the answers. So who does? When it comes to drug policy, experts from around the world are looking to Portugal.

Portugal? It doesn’t come up in most San Franciscans’ daily conversations, but maybe it should.

On Monday morning, I got the chance to interview Dr. Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, a physician and Portugal’s national drug coordinator. He helped his country craft its drug policies — which are widely praised as both humane and effective.

Neither adjective would be used to describe San Francisco’s drug policy, which seems to revolve around looking the other way as users inject in public, toss their dirty needles on the sidewalks, and become sitting ducks for dealers who flock to the Tenderloin and South of Market, where they find ready markets.