Portugal decriminalizes “natural” drugs, your say?

Portugal decriminalizes “natural” drugs, your say?

In Portugal and in many other European countries so-called “natural” drugs have grown in prominence, prompting officials to reconsider the country’s stance towards narcotics.

Strangely, despite being famous for its fortified wine, Portugal’s rate of alcoholism is comparatively lower to its drug consumption – so much so that the country is ranked first in Europe in drug use.

Portuguese authorities have always been aware of this problem, and back in 2000 they decided to change tactics in the struggle against the widespread use of stimulants. Instead of a direct “war” on drugs, they are now taking measures aimed at decriminalizing this social phenomenon. Now, anyone taking drugs and keeps small quantities at home is looked upon as a patient, rather than a criminal.

The issue of drugs use was removed from the jurisdiction of the law enforcement bodies and submitted to the Ministry of Health. As a result, stationary and mobile medical posts were created in the country, where drug addicts, at their request, receive injections of small doses under the supervision of medical personnel.

The number of addicts in Portugal has reduced, while the percentage of AIDS patients among them has dropped even more. Even in Portuguese prisons, the number of AIDS cases has decreased threefold. This was due to the fact that authorities realized that, rather than trying to fight against prisoners sneaking in drugs, it would be safer to provide prisoners with disposable, sterile syringes.

Meanwhile, in recent years another menace has reared its head; so-called “natural” drugs have started appearing in Portugal and other European countries, which are not viewed as illegal in the eyes of Portuguese law. At issue are substances of vegetable and synthetic origin, which are not included in the list of traditional drugs prohibited from sale, or for consumption.

According to the Portuguese press, these substances can be divided into four categories: aphrodisiacs, relaxants, hallucinogens, and stimulants. In Portugal, these drugs are offered for unrestricted sale, as the commercialization of these substances is not prohibited by law.

Back in 2010, there were only nine so-called “smart shops” in the country selling these substances. Since then the number has exploded. Although government bodies are inspecting them, it is only with the goal of finding and confiscating traditional drugs.

According to Portuguese Internet sites, “Euphoria” and “Little Amsterdam” are the names of the most popular smart shops in the city of Porto in the country’s north.

Such shops usually have English names like “Magic Mushroom” in the old University town of Coimbra, or “Freemind” in Lisbon. In addition, in Portuguese public opinion a visit to a smart shop is not as reprehensible as, for example, visiting a sex shop. Customers of smart shops have no need to buy goods on the black market or in the street; they can freely buy it in a shop and even get a receipt.

Time will tell what will come about from the new twist in drugs consumption in Portugal. According to newspapers, the authorities are studying the current situation and strengthening their efforts in combatting the commercialization of “hard” traditional drugs.

Two weeks ago, almost all the Portuguese press published excerpts from the statement of Russian diplomat Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which he made at the presentation of a report on this issue. Among other things he believes that drugs are a matter of security. National newspaper Jornal de Notícias referred to Yuri Fedotov as saying that every year 200,000 people die of drugs all over the world.