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Is Decriminalisation Enough? Drug User Community Voices from Portugal

28 September 2018

This is the first community-driven evaluation of the outcomes of Portugal’s decriminalisation of people who use drugs. Introduced in 2000, Portugal’s model of decriminalisation has been hugely influential and is frequently referred to as an example of legislative reform that has improved public health, social order, and the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs.

However, the lived experiences, perspectives, and rights of the drug-using community are rarely taken into account in assessing the outcomes of decriminalisation in Portugal. Interactions with the state and the police, and issues of violence, social exclusion, stigmatisation, and discrimination, are often entirely omitted from discussion and analysis of decriminalisation in Portugal.

This report describes perspective on the Portuguese decrminalisation model from the perspective of the community. In 2016, INPUD conducted consultations in Porto, Portugal, with Portugal’s drug user rights organisation CASO (Consumidores Associados Sobrevivem Organizados). These consultations built on our Consensus Statement work to explore the on-the-ground outcomes and impacts of Portugal’s policy of decriminalisation, through documenting the views and experiences of communities of people who use drugs in Portugal. As with all of our consultations (and our Consensus Statement), the voices, views, testimony, and lived experiences of people who use drugs themselves form the foundation of this document. Testimony from representatives of CASO is woven through this document, providing a community-driven experiential and evidential backbone.

This report was written by Jay Levy and designed by Mike Stonelake. INPUD is very grateful for financial support from Bridging the Gaps and the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund. INPUD would also like to thank CASO, who contributed to the consultations that informed this paper, and particularly Rui Miguel Coimbra Morais and Sérgio Rodrigues for their insight and assistance with this document.