Following decriminalization, Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the EU: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%, Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
This is a topic that doesn’t get debated nearly enough on the proper grounds here in the States. The argument always devolves into a morality debate, when it should be about the economics and empirical evidence. I often hear opponents of decriminalization saying they don’t want to have to pay for drug-addicts to get better, it’s their problem and their responsibility. But we’re already paying many more times that amount to imprison them, and spending a heck of a lot on law enforcement to get them to those prisons. But if that fact doesn’t swing the pendulum, and critics are still hesitant to decriminalize because they don’t want to live in a country full of users, look at the hard data: all usage drops, across the board. Portugal is a concrete example, but you can simply look at the lenient laws in the EU vs. the US, and look at overall usage per capita…its STILL far less in a union considered very hands-off compared to America. This is an issue that would have profound effects on our country, on our budgets, the health of our population, the safety of our cities (50-80% of theft worldwide is by drug-users), and the security of our borders and those who live near them. I’m sure there are many other benefits out there, but that should be plenty of reasons to get behind some form of policy shift on this issue. It’s ridiculous.