2018: Vancouver Sun: Daphne Bramham: Portugal’s goal is setting drug users on a path to recovery. Excerpts:
LISBON, Portugal — Nuno Capaz is a tough-looking guy, tall, unshaven and slow to smile…Vice President of Lisbon’s Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. He has a doctorate in sociology and it’s his job to try to put Portuguese drug users on a path to recovery and ensure that they are contributing members of society.
Capaz is bemused by the sheer number of foreigners and media who show up at his door… “What makes me mad is that normally people hear decriminalization and they mix it up with legalization or they are thinking that it is a free-for-all,” Capaz said. “It’s not like that at all.”
Capaz said that while possessing and using illicit drugs in Portugal is not a criminal offence, it remains illegal. And the sale and purchasing of those drugs remains a criminal offence. As a result, there is no tolerance here for drugs in public places. Police still arrest people found in possession of drugs. They confiscate the drugs and weigh them, comparing the weight against the limits set by law for what’s acceptable for personal use. For cannabis, the threshold is 25 grams. For hashish, it’s five grams, for cocaine two grams, and for heroin or ecstasy it’s one gram.
Anyone found with more than the personal use limit in Portugal faces criminal charges. People with drugs for personal use are written a summons to appear before the dissuasion commission the following day…Vitor Gonsalves was both apprehensive and defiant when he showed up for his assessment meeting with a clinical psychologist, Raquel Lopes….But Gonsalves was also defiant, insisting on his right to cannabis for personal possession. (no sanctions for him, but apparently the commission had a hope he would quit smoking weed.)
Story 2 from Bramham: Decriminalization is no silver bullet, says Portugal’s drug czar. Excerpts:
Lisbon is no Vancouver…During two weeks here, I saw no more than half a dozen people who were clearly high… There are no cannabis shops, let alone one on almost every corner. The smell of marijuana doesn’t permeate downtown streets, or any streets for that matter. Medical marijuana was only legalized in June.
The notion of legalizing recreational marijuana is anathema here. No addicts openly inject heroin, smoke or inhale illicit substances, and there is no drug market where dealers openly sell…When you ask citizens what they’d do if they saw someone selling or using drugs in public, most say they’d either tell them to do it somewhere else or they’d call the police in hopes the user could be coaxed into treatment and recovery.
(Have to repeat this: “The notion of legalizing recreational marijuana is anathema here.”)
Abstinence — defined as freedom from any form of illicit drug use — is the long-term goal for all addicts, according to Goulão, and Nuno Capaz, vice-president of Lisbon’s commission for the dissuasion of drug use…
(if you come before) the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction…you will be interviewed by a psychologist or social worker before appearing before a three-person panel that will offer suggestions aimed at stopping your drug use. From there, you’re fast-tracked to whatever services you’re willing to accept. If you refuse help, you can be asked to do community service or even, eventually, facing a fine, perhaps even having possessions confiscated and sold to pay the fine.
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Fined for hard drug use and possessions maybe confiscated if you don’t pay? OK. Appear before the panel even for weed? Quite different from the narrative we hear so often about Portugal being another Amsterdam…legalizing all drugs. Or this journalist is way off on reporting….