|Author, Johann Hari|
They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse.
So they decided to do something radically different.
They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and take all the money they once spent on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them—to their own feelings, and to the wider society.
The most crucial step was to get them secure housing and subsidized jobs, so they had a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. In warm and welcoming clinics, addicts are taught how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma.
One group of addicts was given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other and to society, and responsible for each other's care.
An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and intraveneous drug use is down by 50 percent.
Decriminalization has been such a success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system.
The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira, the country's top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News.
But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass—and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal's example."
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