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Briefing paper: Decriminalisation of Drugs in Portugal: A Current Overview

In July 2001, Portugal’s government implemented a notable change in drug policy. From that date, users of any illegal drug apprehended by police were brought not before the courts, but before special commissions composed of health, legal, and social work professionals, whose aim was to give drug users the opportunity to access treatment for addiction and other problems related to drug use. That public health led approach had as its main goal the provision of immediate treatment for problematic drug users, aimed at minimising the social costs of drug use. With this reform, the state began viewing drug users not as criminals, but as victims of drugs. This paper presents an overview of the current Portuguese experience since the 2001 reforms.