by Zack Beauchamp
I am writing only to point out that Portugal hasn’t legalized drugs, it has decriminalized them. Pain medications are legalized, i.e., there is a legal industry, advertising, lobbying, a government controlled regulatory system, no civil or criminal possession penalties etc. None of this is true of marijuana, heroin, cocaine etc. in decriminalization regimes such as exist in Portugal, which simply remove criminal penalties (Portugal still has civil penalties) for possessing small amounts of drugs and for using drugs.
Keith is quite right that I should have been clearer on the difference between decriminalization and legalization. It's important to keep those two separate in drug policy reform discussions. But my aim was not to advocate for legalization as opposed to decriminalization based on the data from Portgual, but rather simply use the data as evidence against Mead's sloppy thinking. Pete Guither's gracious defense makes the point better than I did:
If you are caught using opioids for recreational purposes in the United States, you go to jail. If you do so in Portugal, you don’t. That’s why [Zack] sees Portugal as a better indicator of legalization than the so-called “legal” prescription market. Zack is properly pointing out that using the prescription system that exists today as an argument against legalization is faulty, because no recreational user can legally get a prescription. You may quibble with how he expressed that, but that’s more semantics than analytical error.