Portugal’s non war on drugs

I wonder what Karachi would look like if drugs were decriminalized and brought out of the shadows, like Portugal has done?

LISBON, Portugal — These days, Casal Ventoso is an ordinary blue-collar community – mothers push baby strollers, men smoke outside cafes, buses chug up and down the cobbled main street.

Ten years ago, the Lisbon neighborhood was a hellhole, a “drug supermarket” where some 5,000 users lined up every day to buy heroin and sneaked into a hillside honeycomb of derelict housing to shoot up. In dark, stinking corners, addicts – some with maggots squirming under track marks – staggered between the occasional corpse, scavenging used, bloody needles.

At that time, Portugal, like the junkies of Casal Ventoso, had hit rock bottom: An estimated 100,000 people – an astonishing 1 percent of the population – were addicted to illegal drugs. So, like anyone with little to lose, the Portuguese took a risky leap: They decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law in 2000.

The Lisbon of yesteryear sounds a bit like Karachi’s Shireen Jinnah colony of today, though one of them is a lot worse then the other.

Unlike other countries which are debating this move, drugs are already freely available everywhere in Pakistan, so it’s not like making them legal enhances availability in any way – it just takes them out of the hands of the mafia and politicians and into a taxable market place. I don’t know what Pakistan’s drug market is worth, but given that Afghanistan produces over 90% of the world’s heroin, and a big part of that is consumed in Pakistan, it’s gotta be large. And that’s just one drug, there are plenty of others floating around… A lot of the Taliban derive substantial revenue from the drug trade.

It’s pretty ironic that America’s war on drugs funds their their other big war, the one in Afghanistan.

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