Portugal first puts their drug policy into effect in 2001. It was one that some considered being setting a precedence. This is because the focus was put on decriminalizing drugs in Portugal. Many throughout the world were prepared at the time to stand back and with great interest watch what the results of this type of move was going to be. Portugal was basically implementing a new law that would change the possession of illegal drugs from being a criminal offense to an administrative offense based on the amount that was found in possession of an individual.
Portugal took a different approach to their significant drug problem by viewing it as a health issue as opposed to a criminal one. They decriminalized a whole gambit of drugs that were considered to be illegal from marijuana to heroin and took the health care approach to these. They focused on implementing new health services as an approach to the problem.
Now in 2017, Canada is thinking about taking a close look at the example that Portugal has set. Canada like many other countries are facing an opioid crisis that has become so severe it can no longer be ignored. Some of the Canadian provinces are pushing the federal government to look at the results that Portugal has in regards to their approach of decriminalization of many illegal drugs. Which is based on specific amounts in one’s possession, plus stepping up their education concerning the drugs and implementing social programs?
Some of the positive results that have been derived from Portugal’s drug policy is they have seen a decline in HIV infections. They have also noted a decrease in deaths as a result of the drug over doses. The stats show that deaths as a result of drugs in Portugal are three out of every one million residents. This is much lower than the EU average.
With no other options currently being available for the fight against opioids, it may be that not only Canada but other countries like the US will strongly consider at least some of the steps that Portugal has taken. Part of the considerations will be is how these steps would help to lift the burden off of the criminal systems that are stretched to the limit. Plus, funds would have to be allocated to new drug services and education.