In 2001 the use of all drugs was decriminalised meaning possession of drugs was now identified as a public health issue rather than a criminal offence. Today, whilst drugs remain illegal, users do not receive a criminal record and are instead referred to rehabilitation and treatment programmes. Drug related deaths, HIV infection rates and use of legal highs are at an all-time low.
My Perfect Country traces the development of the policy over the last 15 years and asks whether other countries should use this model for their own legislation on drug control. The architect of Portugal’s policy Joao Goulao explains how the policy was implemented and Doctor Rodrigo Coutinho explains how it was taken on by health services. Our roving ambassador hears from the volunteers of mobile units that does not wait for patients to come to them and hears emotional recovery stories from former users. Presenter Fi Glover, academic Henrietta Moore, professor Alex Stevens from Kent University andTony Duffin of the Ana Liffey drug project in Ireland discuss how far Portugal’s policy has been successful and whether it would work in the perfect country.
(Photo: A Portuguese flag flies above a demonstration against austerity, Lisbon, 2013. Credit: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images)