July 2, 2009 – In 2001, with the number of HIV-related deaths skyrocketing, Portugal tried a novel approach: try to limit the number of infections that came from shared needles by decriminalizing low-level drug possession. imagesInstead of throwing folks in jail, they began to focus on prevention and treatment. A new study has the early results, and they’re pretty inspiring. From Scientific American:

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006.

The plan didn’t change any of the penalties for dealing. But if you’re caught with less than a 10-day personal stash, instead of going in front a judge, a three-person panel—with at least one judge or lawyer and at least one heath care professional—decide whether you should pay a fine or receive treatment. Though it’s still early, and some experts say the numbers were helped by an overall drop in marijuana use around the world, here’s hoping that Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, takes a good look across the pond. Source.

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