One fine example of what happens when you decriminalize illegal drugs possession can be seen in Portugal, which decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. This includes marijuana, heroin, cocaine, meth — you name it. Portugal made the decision to treat use and possession (in small quantities) as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue.
Since passing these laws, Portugal now has one of the lowest instances of drug related deaths in Europe, a statistic that runs directly counter to the rhetoric of our anti-drug laws and the deeply misguided War on Drugs. Making these substances less illegal actually saves more lives in the end, as those suffering from drug abuse are met with a helping hand rather than a jail sentence, and this has been monumental in treating the issues that once plagued Portugal.
Portugal has proved that the decriminalization of drugs doesn’t come with the dire consequences that many predicted. The Transform Drug Policy Institute said in its analysis of Portugal’s drug laws, “The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas. Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to materialize. “