Swedish Drug Policy Centre: Decriminalisation of Drugs

The Swedish Drug Policy Centre (NPC) has published an English translation of a new report on the decriminalisation of drugs focusing on the Portugal experience.

“A topic of much debate in Sweden and the rest of the world right now is the question of how we can reduce the consumption of drugs and drug-related deaths. The Swedish Government has presented a number of measures and additional proposals for action have been put forward by debaters, civil society, researchers and decision-makers. Reference is often made to Portugal as an example of a country with a successful drugs policy, and, in the debate, the good results are attributed to the decriminalisation policy it carried out in 2001,” explained Peter Moilanen, the head of NPC in the Preface of the report.

“We have produced this report precisely because we want to learn more from the Portuguese example; the actions they took and which of them produced good results. In the Swedish debate, comparisons are often made between Portugal and Sweden, and we have therefore chosen to look more closely at the development of the two countries in terms of consumption, mortality and action,” Moilanen writes.

The report concludes that a simplified lesson from Portugal that abolishing the ban on drug use in Sweden would lead to drastic reductions in both drug mortality and gang violence is wrong.

One of the conclusions of this report refers to a misunderstanding that people have regarding Portugal´s experience. “The reforms in Portugal in 2001 were far broader than the abolition of penalties for use and minor possession of drugs. Alongside decriminalisation, ambitious initiatives were taken in healthcare. The head of the Portuguese drug agency, SICAD, João Goulão, himself believes that this was crucial: “Decriminalisation is not a miracle cure. If that’s all you do, things will get worse.””

The report also points out that “drug-related mortality decreased sharply immediately after the reforms, but has gradually increased again after 2008-2009. Portugal is now back at levels similar to those before decriminalisation.”

The report was written by Swedish freelance writer and policy expert Pierre Andersson on behalf of the Swedish Drug Policy Centre, NPC. Pierre Andersson has a background as a journalist and has long monitored drugs policy issues.

Read the report HERE