Retiring Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has made his views widely known. Among his most-discussed policy ideas are his views on the nation’s ‘War on Drugs’. Paul’s policy on drugs became a topic of discussion during a recent argument. Quite predictability, Portugal’s success in decriminalizing drugs was claimed as the ultimate proof that Ron Paul’s policy will work in the U.S. Since this is not the first time that I have encountered the Portugal-Legal-Drug argument, I decided not to argue any further and instead make it the topic of this post.
It is easy to become fooled by the headlines, and there are plenty when it comes to Portugal. For example, scientific American offers the following headline:
5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results
Supporters of Ron Paul’s policy unfortunately do not read beyond this line. Since the devil is always in the details, let us look at what Portugal has really implemented and how the respective policies differ.
The difference between Portugal and Ron Paul’s policy can be summarized in one sentence: Portugal has decriminalized drugs whereas Ron Paul recommends legalization of drugs. The approaches may sound similar but there is a big difference.
Drugs are still illegal in Portugal. However, an offender found in possession of drugs for recreational use is sent to counseling and treatment rather than criminal courts and prison. Drug traffickers still face heavy criminal punishments; they are not set free as Ron Paul proposes. This is how Portugal achieved notable success in war on drugs — by attacking the demand and by attacking the supply.
Now let us look at what Ron Paul is proposing; his policy can be very easily understood from his following remarks:
I would legalize everything. It’s not that I smoke meth or heroin, or that I love prostitutes for that matter: it’s that when you make things illegal as such, you take the money away from normal firms (like, say, CVS) and give it to criminals who, by definition, don’t care about social standards and thus don’t care about breaking “the law.”
From the above remarks it should be very obvious that his policy differs completely from the Portuguese policy. He wants to legalize the manufacture of all drugs such as cocaine and Meth without any regard to the obvious consequences, and he has falsely claimed the example of Portugal while simultaneously wanting to turn this country into Afghanistan in terms of freewheeling drug policy.
If you support Ron Paul’s policy on drugs then I would strongly suggest that you read beyond the headlines. If you are looking for ways to reduce the government’s deficit and annual expenses then there are areas where this country can and should reduce its expenditures. However,the war on drugs in certainly not one of them.