Governments’ so-called “War on Drugs” has taken a major toll on the lives of people around the world. In the US alone, there were over 2 million people in prison for “drug crimes”. And the US government uses drugs as an “excuse” for continued military action and associated bloodshed in Latin America and elsewhere.
With all this violence over consensual activities, it is no wonder that people are waking up and pressuring governments to legalize and decriminalize drug use. Over the past decade, dramatic shifts have occurred in drug policies in various regions. At present, 14 US states and 10 European countries have legalized or decriminalized at least some aspects of drug use or trade. The map below shows marijuana legality worldwide, with regions of legalization/ decriminalization in blue:
I recently re-connected with a friend from Portugal, and among other topics, we discussed the relative value of Californian vs. Portuguese drug policies. At first, each of us argued that the policy where the other lived was better. In California, the sale and use of medical marijuana was “legalized” in 1996, whereas in Portugal the possession and use of all drugs was “decriminalized” in 2001.
Early in our conversation, my friend and I realized there are flaws in both Californian and Portuguese drug policies. I had heard the term “decriminalization” and assumed that the Portuguese government was completely out of the picture when it came to drugs. In fact, drugs are still illegal in Portugal, and the decriminalization was effected through new legislation rather than repeal of previous legislation. My friend explained that being caught with even small quantities of marijuana in Portugal can send a person to court. He said drugs should be totally free like in California. But in California, I explained, drugs are not totally free. Various state and local government offices control who is allowed to buy, sell, grow and prescribe medical marijuana. Clearly, the state wanted to be in on the action. In California, medical marijuana is a $2 billion industry, generating about $100 million in state sales taxes per year.
I’m beginning to think the best policies are in those regions where the drug laws are actively ignored.Tags: decriminalization, legalization, medical marijuana, war on drugs