Eli5: Why isn’t drug decriminalization working so well in Oregon like it did in Portugal?


You often hear Portugal cited when arguing for drug decriminalization. I heard it’s been successful. Oregon on the other hand decriminalized drugs a year ago and overdoses have spiked 40% according to some statistics. Is drug decriminalization all that it’s made up to be? Why did it work on Portugal but not Oregon?

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9 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

It has to be all in and holistic. Just decriminalizing with out support won’t work. Portugal has socialized health care so addiction can be dealt with under a public health remit and other parts of social care system come in to play.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I think it just needs time to level itself out. Of course you’re going to get people who go crazy because it’s legal to do anything, but over time, it should level out. I’m willing to bet Portugal was like that at first as well.

Anonymous 0 Comments

> You often hear Portugal cited when arguing for drug decriminalization

as a Native this is news, havent really heard said like this.this stuff has been decriminalzied since like what 2001 or so?

as far as i understand its not that all drugs are legal here, but stuff like marijuana isnt criminalized. hard drugs are still very much illegal.you can and will be arrested for possesion here, but instead of jail youll likely be sentenced to rehab(failing that then you’d face jail time).

but the idea of this sort of measure is that this sort of drugs are not considered any more dangerous to the public than the likes of alcohol and tobacco and most of the danger involved with them was caused by the fact you had to procure them illegally(which exposed you to the dangers of having ot deal with some rough people.).

the reason why the measure works here is twofold:

1:because these ” lighter” drugs(including tobacco and alcohol) are legal, they can have taxes charged on them

2:because Portugal has Socialized Healthcare the taxes above are harsh to discourage abuse, but more importantly we also have the proper network and facilites ot manage cases of drug abuse and rehabilitation that can be partly or fully funded by the above taxes.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Portugal decriminalized in what? 2001/2002?

The drugs going around (fentanyl, poorly made meth, laced cocaine) are stronger and more dangerous than what was going around pre 2006.

Also, [drug overdoses](https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/issue-brief-increases-in-opioid-related-overdose.pdf) are up nationwide, not just in Oregon.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The whole “legalized drugs things” has to have the end goal of ending use of addictive narcotics through public programs.

It’s not “don’t arrest people for using drugs”, it’s give addicts doctor-moderated access to clean drugs via prescription in conjunction with rehab programs so that they can be weaned off of them over time.

There are many more steps to the ideal scheme than just “decriminalize”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because “drug decriminalization” means different things in Portugal and Oregon.

In Portugal, “drug decriminalization” means that you *will still be arrested* for possession of small quantities of the drugs in question – but you will be sentenced to rehab. If you fail rehab, you still go to jail.

Portugal didn’t invent that style of drug policy – its how possession of small amounts of drugs works in the vast majority of the US *and how it has worked since the 1990s*. It is exceedingly rare for someone to go to jail for a first time drug offense in the US. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen and the internet is good at generating one off examples of very rare things occurring irl – but the fact is that it is very, very rare for someone in the US to get caught with small amounts of drugs and not be sentenced to rehab, even after multiple offenses. And, notably, the *exact same thing is true in Portugal as well* – people there do still end up in jail on a first time drug offense under certain conditions.

Oregon’s “drug decriminalization” means that you quite literally cannot be arrested for small quantities of drugs – being caught with <1g of heroin is the equivalent of a minor parking ticket. You can’t be sentenced to rehab and there’s basically no penalty for just ignoring the fine.

So to answer your question, despite the use of similar terminology, “drug decriminalization” means very different things in Portugal and Oregon to the point that you’re comparing an apple to an orange and wondering why they taste different.

Something to be aware of for legal issues in general is that legal terminology is often very specific to the jurisdiction that you’re in. One of the confusing issues in this is that Portugal technically does say you can’t be *arrested* for drug possession. Instead, you are “administratively detained”. But the practical effect of being administratively detained for drugs is the same as an “arrest” in the US, hence why I use the term arrest in this answer.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Two data points aren’t sufficient to make any sort of conclusion. All you will hear here are people expressing their biases.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I don’t know how Oregon’s decriminalisation works but here we didn’t just go “ok guys feel free to shoot, just don’t carry too much”. For starters we had “salas de chuto” (I think they’re not around anymore) where people could get free sterilised needles for example (I think they still can get them in pharmacies but don’t @ me). If you get caught with drugs with a low quantity you still have to dispose of them if it’s a first offence or go to compulsory rehab if it’s not.

We also have feee healthcare, so if your friend is ODing you call 112. In the USA they probably refrain from calling 911 because it would be expensive

Anonymous 0 Comments

I’d say it is working exceedingly well then. At that rate nobody will be doing drugs in Portland before too long. Also, Portland seems to attract really stupid people.