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20 years of Portuguese drug policy developments, challenges and the quest for human rights Full Text

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UNODC provides legal and policy advice, training and capacity building to Member States upon request. According to a research in the United States in 2010, 70% of male prisoners were drug abusers which is significant compared to the 11.2% rate of drug abuse in the entire male population . According to reports, criminals who had abused drugs and alcohol simultaneously committed 21.4% of aggressive crimes. Among individuals who were arrested in Australia during 2004, 82% had a history of drug abuse, 69% had abused drugs at least 6 months before their arrest and 62% frequently abused drugs . Many people who commit misdemeanors or non-violent crimes do so to support an addiction to drugs, with nearly 20% of prison inmates admitting to committing a crime to obtain money for drugs. There are also the crimes that are committed by those who are intoxicated, usually public disorder crimes, property crimes, and crimes like driving while intoxicated or under the influence .

In 1996 police made about 500,000 arrests for public drunkenness, another crime related to alcohol abuse. The first major drug law, the Harrison Act , required persons dealing in opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, and derivatives of these drugs to register with the federal government. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act forms the basis of federal enforcement efforts today.

Based in southwestern Mexico, Guerreros Unidos broke away from the BLO in 2009 and became involved in the heroin trade. The group is known to have a partnership with the CJNG, using the same transportation networks to move drug shipments to and from the United States. Originally a paramilitary enforcement arm for the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas was singled out by the DEA in 2007 as the country’s most “technologically advanced, sophisticated, and violent” group of its kind.

Throughout its short history, from clandestinity to political legitimacy, it went through an experimental phase (1993–1998) in which programs (e.g., support offices, street teams and shelters) were developed mostly on the initiative of the civil society rather than by political will . The initial goal was the access to hard-to-reach heroin and crack-cocaine users who resisted the traditional socio-health approaches based on pathology . Seventy-six percent of jail inmates who had a mental health problem were dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs, compared to 53% of inmates without a mental health problem. This was the highest rate of substance dependence or abuse among all inmates, including state and federal prisoners.

Think Global Health

Some drug crimes fall under the notion of drug-defined offenses, drug crimes that involve offenses that directly counteract a set law related to the manufacture, distribution, or use of a drug. Another good reason to criminalize the use of drugs is for personal protection. Some drugs are highly addictive and might lead to serious personal, economic, physical and mental collapse, and ultimately, death.

For example, pipes, bongs, and rolling papers often include labeling stating that they are to be used with tobacco. Despite such a label, circumstantial evidence can be used to charge possession of the item as illegal possession of drug paraphernalia. Usually, drug residue or evidence of use in conjunction with drugs defeats the argument that the items were used for legitimate purposes. 79% of veterans in state prison reported prior drug use during their military service. Nearly 40% of mentally ill probationers and 30% of other probationers reported using drugs in the month before their offense.

It’s estimated that between 25-50% of violent crimes are committed by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as were nearly 60% of robbery, theft, and property crimes which led to incarceration. In the month before the offense, 82% of jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to 70% of those without, had used alcohol or drugs. By specific type of substance, jail inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of alcohol use in the month before the offense than drug use. Among local jail inmates who had a mental health problem, 81% reported alcohol use in the month before the offense and 62% drug use. In 2002 about a quarter of convicted property and drug offenders in local jails had committed their crimes to get money for drugs, compared to 5% of violent and public order offenders. Among state prisoners in 2004 the pattern was similar, with property (30%) and drug offenders (26%) more likely to commit their crimes for drug money than violent (10%) and public-order offenders (7%).

As criminals devise ever-more creative ways of disguising illegal drugs for transport, law enforcement faces challenges in detecting such concealed substances. In addition, new synthetic drugs are produced with regularity, so police need to always be aware of new trends and products on the illicit market. While alcohol is more closely correlated with violent crimes like assault, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and abuse, illegal drugs are also a common factor in violent crimes. By specific type of substance, jail inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of dependence or abuse of drugs than alcohol. An estimated 63% of local jail inmates who had a mental health problem were dependent on or abused drugs, while about 53% were dependent on or abused alcohol.

Problematic heroin use was the second highest in Europe in and, although it has been losing its relevance, Portugal remains among the countries with a higher ratio of high-risk opioid use . Not free from ambivalence, the Portuguese drug policies have made their way from public order to public health domains while, nevertheless, mixing the two concerns. The theme was dealt with as something that disturbs the social order, establishing itself as a commonplace both in the popular imagination and in the political and media agenda. Portugal joined the War on Drugs in the seventies, even though drug use was not, at the time, a relevant social problem in the country, nor did the legislator distinguish, until then, between drug use and drug dealing. The Bush administration focused heavily on providing Mexico with security-related assistance, including counternarcotics and counterterrorism support. President Obama widened the scope of aid to target fundamental reforms to Mexico’s justice system and to develop crime-prevention programs at the community level, among other efforts, in what became known as “Mérida 2.0” .

In our inner-cities, access to drugs is especially easy, and the risk of arrest has proven to have a negligible deterrent effect. What would change under decriminalization is not so much drug availability as the conditions under which drugs would be available. Without prohibition, providing help to drug abusers who wanted to kick their habits would be easier because the money now being squandered on law enforcement could be used for preventive social programs and treatment. The “lock ’em up” mentality of the war on drugs has burdened our criminal justice system to the breaking point. Today, drug-law enforcement consumes more than half of all police resources nationwide, resources that could be better spent fighting violent crimes like rape, assault and robbery.

Drugs and Predatory Crime

A person cannot be prosecuted merely for being under the influence or even for addiction to illegal drugs. In 1962, statutes criminalizing addiction were found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol continues to be a major public health issue, as well as a leading cause of death in the US.

The use of alcohol or illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine greatly increases the likelihood of criminal involvement, including the risk for violent crime. Drug and alcohol use also predicts ongoing criminal involvement, with studies showing that 68% of released prisoners are rearrested for drug charges within three years of exiting prison. In 1991, 60% of federal prisoners reported prior drug use, compared to 79% of state prisoners. In 1997 this gap in prior drug use was narrowed, as the percentage of federal inmates reporting past drug use rose to 73%, compared to 83% of state inmates. By 2004 this gap was almost closed, as state prisoner reports of lifetime drug use stayed at 83%, while federal inmates rose to 79%.

Criminal networks traffic a range of drugs including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. As international borders become increasingly porous, global abuse and accessibility to drugs have become increasingly widespread. Drug possession charges can also be brought against people in possession of prescription drugs unless they are prescribed to the defendant.

In recent years, vigilante groups known as autodefensas have sought to fill in where security forces have failed to protect communities from criminal groups. They have become a formidable force against the cartels in states including Guerrero and Michoacán. However, some vigilantes have committed rights abuses, including the recruitment of child fighters; allegedly maintained ties to cartels in exchange for weapons and protection; and even turned to organized crime themselves.

  • Apart from demographic factors and the individual’s addiction history, the type of crime was investigated as well.
  • In Myanmar, UNODC strengthened the capacity of the police to provide survivor-centered responses, effective investigation and inter-agency coordination among the criminal justice system to better respond to gender-based violence.
  • With U.S. assistance, the Mexican military captured or killed twenty-five of the top thirty-seven drug kingpins in Mexico.

Moreover, the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, has more dire consequences in impoverished communities where good treatment programs are least available. Not only is prohibition a proven failure as a drug control strategy, but it subjects otherwise law-abiding citizens to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for what they do in private. In trying to enforce the drug laws, the government violates the fundamental rights of privacy and personal autonomy that are guaranteed by our Constitution. The ACLU believes that unless they do harm to others, people should not be punished — even if they do harm to themselves. There are better ways to control drug use, ways that will ultimately lead to a healthier, freer and less crime-ridden society.

In Somalia, UNODC is implementing a project funded by UN ACTION to pilot the UNODC/WHO tool on strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence. Police officers were trained on criminal justice response to gender-based violence in conflict. Economic-related crime is the type of crime that people commit in order to have money to continue their drug addiction. Theft and prostitution are the most common types of economic-related drug crimes. The key market of this book series will be those specifically interested in the area of drugs, crime and criminal justice, but many of the books may also be of wider interest to those interested in criminological and/or sociological theory more generally. Additionally, books may likely be of interest and use to a range of organisations and practitioners, including policy makers, criminal justice officials, campaign groups, think tanks and those working with people who use drugs.

Drug prohibition promises a healthier society by denying people the opportunity to become drug users and, possibly, addicts. The Commission also co-funds initiatives in the field of drugs such as theMaritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N)which provides a forum for multi-lateral cooperation to suppress illicit drug trafficking by sea and air. As part of EU efforts in the field of drugs, the EU is taking strategic and operational measures to reduce drug supply and demand by working closely with all partners at national and international level, EU institutions, bodies and agencies, as well as civil society organisations. In Spain, use or possession for use, when in a public space, constitutes a serious infraction, framed in the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana (i.e., law on citizen security), and is sanctioned by internal security authorities .

Personal vs. Public Harm

In Italy, drug use sanctions – of essentially a security nature – fall within the competence of the prefetto . These tendencies cannot be, however, linearly related with the decriminalization law per se, as Laqueur and Quintas have shown. The United States has partnered closely with its southern neighbor in this fight, providing Mexico with billions of dollars to modernize its security forces, reform its judicial system, and fund development projects aimed at curbing migration at Mexico’s southern border. Washington has also sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the United States by bolstering security and monitoring operations along its border with Mexico. Drug dealing or “trafficking” laws make it illegal to sell, trade, or otherwise exchange scheduled drugs. Some state laws differentiate offenses for selling drugs for value from simply providing or sharing drugs.Drug traffickingis generally charged as a felony and becomes more serious when a large amount of drugs is involved, or when a person’s death results from the drugs that were trafficked.

Also, many states have cracked down on DUI and DWI penalties, and violations can result in felony charges, revoked driving privileges, jail time, and higher insurance costs. Despite these efforts, many preventable deaths occur each year as a direct result of impaired driving. Nearly half of parents in federal prison reported using drugs in the month before their offense and 3 in 4 had ever used drugs.

drugs crime

So, it seems what is and isn’t a drug crime will vary throughout a country’s history. Drug crimes are violations of laws that involve the manufacture, distribution, or use of drugs that the U.S. federal and/or state government have deemed illegal. The recent steep climb in our incarceration rate has made the U.S. the world’s leading jailer, with a prison population that now exceeds one million people, compared to approximately 200,000 in 1970. Nonviolent drug offenders make up 58 percent of the federal prison population, a population that is extremely costly to maintain. While drug imprisonments are a leading cause of rising local tax burdens, they have neither stopped the sale and use of drugs nor enhanced public safety.

What led to the cartels’ growth?

Moreover, many criminals are under the influence of drugs while committing crimes. Note that the decriminalization law has no impact on incarceration for drug trafficking, since this behavior is regulated by Decree-Law n. These tendencies might indicate either a change in law enforcement priorities, since law enforcement enjoys a certain discretionary power ; different sentencing practices or a combination of both. Awareness regarding these challenges is worth further research, in particular, if the innovative spirit of Portugal’s National Drug Strategy is to be kept alive. Mexican drug trafficking organizations —sometimes referred to as transnational criminal organizations—dominate the import and distribution of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in the United States.

  • Reducing conflict, crime, violence, discrimination, and ensuring inclusion and good governance, are key elements of people’s well-being and essential for securing sustainable development.
  • Between 1968 and 1992, the annual number of drug-related arrests increased from 200,000 to over 1.2 million.
  • What would change under decriminalization is not so much drug availability as the conditions under which drugs would be available.
  • They also coerce officials into cooperating; assassinations of journalists and public servants by the cartels are relatively common.

The emotional strain of addiction, the financial burden to the country, and lives lost from overdose all have a dramatic effect on individuals, families, and communities. Of these effects, one of the most damaging to our society is the direct impact that drug use and the illegal drug trade has on crime and safety. Possession and distribution of most drugs is a crime and is responsible for the majority of the arrests made in the US each year. In addition to drug-related charges that strain our legal and justice system, drugs and alcohol play an indirect role in many other crimes.

Drug-related crime

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Possession of drug paraphernalia is typically punished as a misdemeanor, with enhanced penalties eco sober house complaints for the sale or transfer of the paraphernalia to a minor. About 1 in 10 of those on probation for DWI had been arrested or held in a police station as a result of their drug use.

A Common Anti-Trafficking Plan to address the risks of trafficking in human beings and support potential victims among those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Numerous case studies are included in each chapter to highlight key or notorious criminal cases related to drugs and crime, giving readers real-life occurrences that connect with the concepts being presented. The only reason that this book is recommended for supplemental reading is that the course does not have a specific drugs and crime module. At the end of the nineties, the vulnerability of high-risk users raised concerns among the broader society – for example, the HIV epidemic was exploding – and legislative change was imperative.

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