The drug policy of Portugal was put in place in 2001, and was legally effective from July 2001. The new law maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use without authorization. However, the offense was changed from a criminal one, with prison a possible punishment, to an administrative one if the amount possessed was no more than a ten-day supply of that substance.
As this chart shows, use had gone up slightly when measured in 2007 (a trend in line with other, similar countries), but has since gone back down. In fact, by two out of three measures, adult drug use is now lower than it was in 2001.
numbers just released from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction paint an even more vivid picture of life under decriminalization: drug overdose deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union.
The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.
“It’s incomparably cheaper to treat people than to jail them.” But there are other vital reasons, including the key fact that when it comes to efforts to persuade addicts to obtain counseling, “decriminalization makes all this easier, because people no longer fear arrest.”