United Nations Appoints Leader Known for Decriminalizing Drugs
With the American election still dominating headlines, it was easy to miss the appointment of António Guterres as the top man at the United Nations. Guterres was sworn in as the Secretary-General on Jan 1.
While the power of the U.N. Secretary-General is indeed limited, this one is very much worth watching.
Guterres is the former prime minister of Portugal, a country famous among activists for decriminalizing personal use of all drugs—yes, all of them, including coke, heroin and meth—instead, focusing on harm reduction and addiction recovery as an alternative to criminalizing a public health issue. Guterres was instrumental in getting this change passed, and the results have been spectacular.
As of July 2001, possession of up to a 10-day supply of any illegal drug changed from a criminal offense to an administrative one. Which means that if caught by cops, users will not be arrested, although their stash will be confiscated, and they will be issued a summons to be interviewed by a Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction (Comissões para a Dissuasão da Toxicodependência), comprising of a psychiatrist, a lawyer and a social worker. The commission can levy fines, restrict or ban some forms of travel and revoke licenses for some professions like doctors or professional drivers, but their main goal is to get addicts and users into rehab programs.
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