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Knowledge Base

Reorienting The War On Drugs

What’s the “War on Drugs?”

The War on Drugs is a phrase used to refer to a government-led initiative that aims to stop illegal drug use, distribution, and trade by increasing and enforcing penalties for offenders. The movement started in the 1970s and is still evolving today.

What is the Portugal example and how successful was it?

Portugalfound successby taking a demand-oriented approach to drug control. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use and small-scale (for personal use) possession of drugs; punishments remain but are distinct from the prison system, and addicts can seek treatment without fear of arrest. The Portuguese experience suggests that real progress is possible, particularly among young people, in preventing and treating addiction. 

If the United States were to adopt this approach, people would increasingly go to free, well-vetted drug treatment centers, and the illegal drug market in this country would gradually disappear, as would profits going south to the drug lords.

Is decriminalizing drugs the same thing as legalization?

Decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization. The end goal is to reduce drug use, not encourage its recreational consumption. While decriminalization is a loosening of criminal penalties, legalization is the lifting or abolishment of laws banning the possession and personal use of drugs.