Last week, the Home Office in the U.K. published a report that compared international drug laws. The report was especially significant because it marks the first official statement since 1971 that acknowledges the lack of a connection between tough drug laws and effectiveness in addressing the issue. Originally suppressed by Conservatives, the report has sparked tension between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in the U.K.

 

While both Portugal and the Czech Republic have decriminalized personal drug use, their results have diverged. Portugal’s reported drug use is relatively low, while the Czech Republic has among the highest rates of cannabis use in Europe. Therefore, a comparison between Portugal and the Czech Republic disproves a necessary link between the strictness of a country’s drug laws and a country’s drug use.

 

Since decriminalizing drug use in 2001, use levels have fallen in Portugal. The Home Office report demonstrates that criminal-justice-based approaches toward drug politics are less effective than health-based approaches. Conservatives, however, argue that health-based drug politics wouldn’t be tough enough on drug dealers and would send harmful messages about drugs to adolescents.

 

The Czech Republic has a very high reported cannabis use rate, while Portugal's numbers are much lower.

The Czech Republic has a very high reported cannabis use rate, while Portugal’s numbers are much lower.

Washington and Colorado have both relaxed drug laws recently by decriminalizing marijuana, so time will tell how their strides toward legalization will impact local drug cultures. Regardless, the hope is that legalization will challenge organized crime and introduce an increased control over cannabis distribution and use.

 

In the United States, the benefits of more health-based drug laws would extend from the use of psychoactives in medicine, to the tackling of institutionalized racism. Today’s Midterm Elections will be certain to influence drug culture in the United States. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., for instance, will have the opportunity to opt for marijuana legalization.

 

Do you think that the Home Office’s report proves the inefficiencies of drug laws? Let me know below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness