Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Busting The Biggest Myth Of All—Part 1

If I were to ask you which country in the European Union has the most lenient recreational drug laws, what would you say? I’m no pollster, but if I had to put money on it, I would bet virtually everyone in the U.S. would answer that question with The Netherlands. Is that what you were going to say? I thought so. But you, and most people in this country, would be wrong. The Dutch have not decriminalized marijuana or any other recreational drug (except of course for alcohol). They just have an unwritten policy of looking the other way under certain circumstances.

If however you had answered my question with Portugal, you would have been absolutely correct and would have won a valuable prize. You didn’t, so don’t try to change your answer now. But it is in fact true. In 2001, Portugal became the first western nation to decriminalize the personal possession and use of all recreational drugs. Don’t confuse this with outright legalization. They still arrest people for producing, importing, and selling drugs. But they no longer treat casual users, or even addicts, as criminals.

Time now for another quiz. (I know, if I would have told you in advance you could have studied. Sorry.) What is the one consequence of decriminalization that even intelligent, well-educated people almost always assume without question is true? If you said that drug use would increase, you are correct. (OK, technically there is no right answer, but this is my quiz so I decide what’s right. Kind of like our federal government.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that decriminalizing, or god forbid legalizing, recreational drugs would lead to an out-of-control society where drug abuse is running rampant. Everyone would be high all the time and our nation would be in ruins. It would be a catastrophe of biblical proportions. Dogs and cats living together. And this is what the more intelligent people think.

Of course expecting the worst from decriminalization is purely speculation, at best. We really don’t have any evidence to support or refute that prediction. I mean just because recreational drugs have been legal for the entire history of mankind, up till 70 years ago, means nothing. Somehow civilization has managed to progress quite nicely in its first 20,000 years with all those drugs being freely available. But that’s ancient history. We are now much smarter and just “know” that the consequences of freely-available recreational drugs would be devastating to our society. We don’t need no stinking evidence. It’s so obvious that actual scientific study, let alone trying decriminalization and seeing what happens, would be pointless.

But wait. What was that I said earlier about Portugal having decriminalized drugs 8 years ago? We don’t even need to try it here. We already have a place where we can see first hand the effects of decriminalization over a period of several years. That is, if we care to look. Which we clearly don’t.

But let’s say we did look. What’s been happening in Portugal over the past 8 years? Are dogs and cats now living together? Is the country in ruins? You’ll have to come back next week to find out the answer.

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