Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nicholas Kristoff's NY Times opinion

Nicholas Kristoff's Sunday opinion column in the N. Y. Times on the legalization of drugs is a pertinent theme and one that I have worked and written on fairly extensively. The Cato Institute recently published a paper written by Glenn Greenwald on the 10 years since decriminalization for all drugs became law in Portugal. I disagree with a few conclusions but as someone who at the time lived in Portugal , was an active participant in the town hall like discussions that went on in the country as well as someone who helped draft some of the new ways to go about implementing the new policies I find these discussions very pertinent. Here is my comment on his article:
Mr.Glenn Greenwald of the CATO Institute recently published a paper on the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal and the effects and consequences it has had since its implementation at the beginning of this decade. having been a part of that “social experiment” as a social worker I read the report and found it generally accurate with a few misleading conclusions. Decriminalization was indeed implemented after the recommendations of a panel set up by the government at the time. To its lasting credit, the government actually followed through on its commitment to implement the suggestions put forth. It has been 10 years and Portugal has not become a drug paradise nor have the rates of consumption changed. There is much more money available for prevention and treatment and that has had a measurable effect on the reduction of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission. This country’s drug laws are racist, affect predominantly the poor and have contributed to the fact that in the shadow of this nation’s capital the transmission rate of HIV is on par with some countries in West Africa. 4% of young African American males are infected with HIV. The effect that massive incarceration has and will continue to have on this nation’s poorer classes is devastating. The results of the War on Drugs are there for all to see. It has become our Gulag and will go down in history as a period of collective madness. When will it stop?

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