Tag: Portugal

Morality Should Not Determine Legality

By Ian Brzeski | United States

For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.

What are Victimless Crimes?

In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.

Freedom of Choice

Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.

If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.

While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.

The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.

Legalization in Amsterdam

I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.

The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.

Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.


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How Portugal Is Winning The War On Drugs

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Recently, stigma had decreased about addiction as we learn more about it. As a result, our approach to solving the problem has changed. For the last 75 years, the attitude toward drugs was zero tolerance, and the solution to the problem of addiction has been punitive rather than rehabilitative.

Baby steps are being taken towards legalization by many countries around the world, the most significant being Portugal which in 2001 decriminalized possession of all substances in small amounts. The move saw relatively widespread support, many seeing the drug war to be a massive waste and failure, believing that there are better ways to handle addiction than harsh punishment.

But not everybody supported the move, some were in opposition claiming addiction rates will spike and Portugal will simply become Europe’s new center of Narco-Tourism.

It is 2018 now, 17 years later, and the decriminalization efforts have seen extraordinary success.

Portugal’s serious drug problem began in 1974. Previous to that year, addiction rates were at a normal level correlating similarly to other countries in Europe. In that year, Portugal’s longtime fascist dictatorship fell to a leftist democratic coup called what came to be known as Carnation Revolution.

Due to various factors, the country was flooded with drugs. Many experts attribute this spike in drug usage rates to many migrating from former colonies and other underdeveloped nations to Portugal, many of which were outsiders and sometimes criminals, who used drugs fully illegal in Portugal at the time. With the spike of drug usage came a rise in HIV, crime rates, and, of course, addiction.

The solution put forth by the Portuguese government was no surprise. They tried harsher penalties for drug offenders and more money being funneled into law enforcement and the drug war.

Despite a more authoritarian approach being taken, the situation continued to degrade. By the late 1990’s, Portugal had the highest rate of drug related AIDS deaths in the entire EU and heroin addiction reached an astonishing 1% of the population. Drug usage was rampant and little could be done to stop it. With so much resources being funneled into the war on drugs, crime rates had reached an all time high.

With the approach at the time failing so miserably, Portuguese officials understood they needed to make a drastic shift in strategy. They came to the conclusion that hardcore criminalization was not the answer to the problem. They decided to do an experiment which no other Western Nations had tried, decriminalization, rehabilitation rather than punitive punishment.

The new Portuguese policy regarding drugs consisted of a decriminalization of personal use of narcotics. This meant one would not be legally penalized for using and possessing a certain quantity of drugs defined as the amount for personal use of up to 10 days. Drug traffickers do still receive a legal penalty for the sale and trafficking of drugs, although the penalties are just a fraction of the penalty received for the same crime in the United States and many other European nations.

Many were in favor of the new approach, but as with any radical change, many were also in opposition. They suspected the situation would just get worse and worse. “How could making it easier for drug users going to make the situation any better?” they said.

Despite what the statists, fearmongers, and those who followed them said about the dangers of decriminalizing drugs in Portugal, the country has seen astounding and unprecedented results.

The rate of drug usage has been slowly but steadily declining since decriminalization; they went from a country with one of the highest drug usage rates in the EU, to falling below the European average.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation; the fall in usage may be because of other factors, but it shows decriminalization does not cause more drug usage. Data as shown in the graphs below:

 

 

 

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Despite what refuting groups claim, the drug overdose rate has fallen drastically since decriminalization.

Certain organizations such as the World Federation of Drugs will mislead people by claiming that by measuring “the number of people who died with traces of any illicit drug in their body”, the number of overdose deaths in Portugal has in fact increased. This claim was easily debunked, given an individual can be deceased with trace amounts of drugs in their body, without the drugs having anything do do with their deaths.

The number taken as the standard for the internationally accepted measure of overdoses and drug related deaths is a clinical assessments made by physicians, rather than toxicological tests. According to this measure, deaths due to drug use or overdose have decreased significantly – from approximately 80 in 2001, to 16 in 2012. This correlation may be indicative of causation due to the fact drug users have safer environments and methods to use than previous to decriminalization.

Drug related HIV and AIDs diagnosis’ have been steadily decreasing since decriminalization. This is another example where correlation can actually be attributed to causation. Decriminalization put an emphasis on harm reduction, and allowed addicts to more easily use in clean environments. Below is a graph of newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS among drug users.

 

 

As you can probably tell, in relation to drug harm statistics, decriminalization in Portugal has been a very large success. Although this is by no means a final solution, and it is far from a libertarian ideal for personal responsibility of the substances you consume without state interference.

This is in an essential step in the right direction, though.

The direction of convincing the world that not only is it immoral for the state to impose its will on its subjects through the initiation of force, but it is self-defeating to do so. The authoritarian solution to a problem always exacerbates the problem itself , as seen in Portugal before decriminalization, and the United States today.

Portugal has stepped up and set an example for the world. It has shown that the traditional solution to drug addiction, which was attempting to suppress through iron fist of government, is not the most moral nor efficient means of solving the problem. Hopefully, the world follows Portugal’s example and takes steps to end the 75-year-old worldwide tyranny of the war on drugs.


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