A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs

5 January 2012

Drug and Alcohol Review (January 2012), 31: 101-113 [Restricted view]

In July 2001 as part of a comprehensive new policy Portugal decriminalised use, acquisition and possession of all illicit drugs when conducted for personal use. Sales of all illicit drugs remained as criminal offences. Ten years on, the reform has attracted considerable international attention. It has also been the subject of a number of divergent accounts on its impacts, with some commentators offering diametrically opposed policy conclusions from their evidence-informed analyses.

This paper aims:

  • To outline the two most divergent accounts on the Portuguese reform: the ‘disastrous failure’ and the ‘resounding success’.
  • To compare and contrast how they have dealt with the three most contested claims surrounding the reform.
  • To demonstrate (by re-contextualising the accounts against the available evidence) how evidence has been used and misused and correct misinformation.
  • To discuss the implications of this case study for the generation of evidence-based drug policy.

The paper is available online [restricted view] here.

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