Factors And Consequences Of Portugal's Drug Policy

900 Words 4 Pages
In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to fully decriminalise possession of small amounts of all controlled substances - for personal use. Though there has been a large reduction in drug related deaths in the following years, statistics show that use of controlled substances has increased in a number of areas. Health actors in this policy area are very strongly tied to each stage of the policy cycle, including evaluation, and despite some successes, this policy has been evaluated as both positive and negative by different groups of health professionals (Hughes & Stevens, 2010).

The final key actor in the drug policy space is the legal group. Under current policies, just under 50% of the US prison population is incarcerated for
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Though there are numbers of those in the legal sector, including everyone from Supreme Court judges through to traffic officers, whom have a strong personal view on the area of drug policy, legal officials can often be seen as having little power at the agenda-setting stage of the policy cycle. This is because they are public servants, and often it would be considered hypocritical to support harm reductionist policy, while incarcerating individuals for crimes as little as possession for personal use. The part of the policy cycle where legal officials have the most influence as an actor group is the implementation stage. Legal officials are the ones who are tasked with the direct implementation of much of a nation’s drug policy, and in some cases will use this power to exert their influence onto the policy ( Dennis J Kenny et al., 1999). An example of this power leading to a tangible change in policy is that of the Netherlands cannabis policy. In the Netherlands, a policy of ‘Non-Enforcement’ for cannabis and other small drug offences has …show more content…
Prohibition in the modern era is generally accepted to have begun in the mid-1860’s in the United States. Very strong success in combating opium related deaths set a strong precedent for the spread of prohibitionist policies, behind the lobbying of the health communities (Berridge & Edwards, 1981). Before these early prohibitionist policies, not enough was known about the effects of drug use to open the policy window described by Kingdon’s three streams model (Howlett, Ramesh, & Perl, 2009). After Chinese opium dens became increasingly common in the US, and no longer frequented by exclusively Chinese immigrants, the politics and problem streams opened up, creating the policy window for change. While similar prohibitionist policies are still widespread today, some of the actors listed above are creating a policy window for discussion, if not change, of our prohibitionist policies today. Medicinal cannabis supporters have benefitted from the medical community and the media providing coverage on the issue, enough to force many governments to make policy change. Evidence suggests that if the same proliferation of support can come for harm reduction policy such as drug courts or decriminalisation, then governments are likely to take note and make the necessary changes in their countries (Clark & Merlin, 2013).

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