Comparing Portugal's and the Philippines's opposite drug policies

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/09/comparing-portugals-and-the.html

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That argument doesn’t play well in the US. Too many here believe that harm reduction is simply increasing the moral hazard, and that the way to eliminate the scourge of immorality is to make its retribution swift and sure.

We’ve seen for over a century how well that works. (cf. 21st Amendment, the introduction of penicillin, Obergefell v. Hodges)

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The irony of fighting at best benign, at worst self-harming “immorality” with worse, actual immorality that harms so many more people, including the families of drug users and taxpayers for the benefits of private prisons and the careers of tough-on-crime politicians.

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Or any other place where there is a private jail system that must be kept running by fueling it with new inmates. In the US private jails aren’t a new thing (San Quentin was the 1st one), but their number soared during the Reagan administration thanks to the war on drugs which demanded more and more prisons to be built, with private businesses more than ready to offer their “product”. So essentially there are businesses operating thanks to drugs kept illegal; the conflict of interest couldn’t be more evident.

However, in an era when one could be shot by the police just for being autistic, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if tomorrow the US Govt would decriminalize drugs since they now can make up any reason for detaining anyone at will.

The situation stinks so badly that even Fox News openly criticizes it.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/the-cold-hard-facts-about-americas-private-prison-system

A site with some numbers to compare the jail systems globally country by country.

https://prisonstudies.org/world-prison-brief-data

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Yup, everyone in prison carefully weighed their life choices against the consequences as any rational person might. :roll_eyes:

Our culture is so painfully stupid at times that it makes me weep.

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The decriminalisation is very nuanced, so be careful of generalisations. This decriminalisation is for private usage (if you are found with more than a certain small amount, you still go to prison), and even then the drug gets confiscated and you might be referred to counselling. The general motto is: “it is illegal but not prosecuted”.

in general, I agreed with the general tone that people use when they refer to Portugal attitude on drugs. Where I grew up, in the 80s and 90s (suburb of Lisbon) heroine was everywhere. I come from a middle-class family, and several of my friends became addicted. But in the early 2000s the problem started to disappear and was not replaced by another kind of highly addictive drug. So in general I find this was the right move.

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This. You can stop anywhere on the road from decriminalisation to regulation to legalisation, and probably should for different drugs depending on the harm they cause. If you apply this logic the evidence suggests we should legalise shrooms, legalise (and maybe regulate) cannabis (eg age limits), regulate booze (like we do), and decriminalise meth and heroin for personal amounts.

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In 2017, 2.6% of all deaths in the US of A were alcohol-related. Regulation would have to be fairly extensive to make a difference there, what kind of regulation would you propose? Things like banning advertisement and branding?

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Er… Alcohol is already regulated to varying degrees almost everywhere across the planet. Got to be 18/21 years old to purchase? That’s regulation. Can’t carry an open bottle in public? That’s regulation. Can’t buy beer from a Girl Scout going door-to-door? Regulation. Paying tax on your booze? Regulation…

I might be missing your point.

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I think we would need to regulate alcohol more, because even though it is already regulated, of all the drugs out there it’s the one causing the most deaths, and the most harm and suffering to addict’s families.

Edit for clarity.

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Totally agree. If you take a harm minimisation approach adjusted by risk, booze is the one obvious under-regulated drug while shrooms are the obviously over-regulated one.

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I am constantly amazed that some states in the US have legalised/decriminalised cannabis. I’d have expected them to be going down the same path as the Philippines (given that the standard US response to a problem is “shoot it, don’t bother questioning anything”).

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Excessive regulation is a shortcut you use to avoid educating people about conscious and safe recreative use of substances and personal responsibility.

“Forbidden fruits” lose a lot of their appeal for younglings when you are not breaking the rules to feel that good old adrenaline rush that comes from assuming you are doing something risky.

Don’t even get me started on the way people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate mental health issues.

Throw all the regulation you want on it, if you don’t deal with the reason people are using drugs they will just keep using them.

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No, I don’t use regulation as a shortcut for that. But I am very well aware that some regulation is an important step on the way of educating people about conscious and safe recreative use of substances and personal responsibility. For example you can educate kids all you want, you still wouldn’t want a 12 year old to drink alcohol, because at that age I can see no potential for safe recreative use even under supervision, and not enough personal responsibility in most kids.

Consider hat besides banning smoking in public public, banning advertising for tobacco products and only allowing the sale of unbranded cigarette packs is the most effective way to stop young people from picking up smoking cigarettes. I could see that also work for alcohol, and I see nothing wrong with regulating the market in that way at all. Do you?

Do you think that has a massive influence? I can’t remember this ever playing a role in my consumption of drugs. OTOH, I was brought up to never give a shit about any rule I didn’t consent to anyway, so that might be radically different for other people.

For me it was more like someone talked about their experiences, and I was like, yeah, let’s try that, it sounds interesting. What I do remember quite vividly is the adrenaline rush that comes from anticipation after I knew from experience what was going to happen. But maybe the drugs I had access to were of exceptional quality. :thinking:

I would argue that self-medication is just one fraction of the problem (maybe a bigger one in the US, because they have the worst healthcare in the developed world), and I agree that won’t go away with regulation. But not every glass of alcohol that people with mental health issues consume is self-medication, and they too can get addicted to alcohol and suffer severe bodily harm from excessive consumption. In many cases alcohol exacerbates their mental health issues. So they’d probably find drugs that are more helpful, more fun, and less dangerous and less addictive than alcohol if we regulate alcohol more.

You mean capitalism? I’m all for doing away with that for good. And I see effective regulation of alcohol as one step on the way.

IMHO the only reasons people should use drugs is to increase their quality of life, without sacrificing long-term happiness for a short high. And maybe it would be beneficial for psychiatrists to go on a trip or two, so that they have a first-hand experience of how radically different their patient’s experience of reality might be, because that would be a huge step forward for people with mental health issues.

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