International Success

Since launching the drug war, the United States has almost single-handedly exported the prohibitionist model to every country in the world. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alone maintains more than 80 foreign offices in over 60 countries.

In almost every region of the world, however – from South America to Europe, and in countries including Australia and Iran – health-centered drug policies are being implemented that are proving to be remarkably more effective at improving public safety and health than outright criminalization.

Portugal presents the most significant and successful example of a post-criminalization, health-centered drug policy. In 2001, Portuguese legislators decriminalized low-level drug possession and reclassified it as an administrative violation. The explicit aim of the policy shift was to adopt an approach to drugs based not on dogmatic moralism and prejudice but on science and evidence.

At the heart of this policy change was the recognition that the criminalization of drug use was not justifiable and that it was actually a barrier to more effective responses to drug use. Every objective analysis has clearly demonstrated that Portugal has drastically decreased its rates of violent crime, addiction, and disease transmission since reforming its drug laws.