In the last fifteen years or so drugs decriminalization has (re)emerged as a pragmatic response to the ‘drug problem’, with the Portuguese model widely recognized as an alternative to drugs prohibition. The history of similar initiatives, however, teaches us that veils of optimism and hope may actually conceal the permeation of alternative forms of state power into the more intimate and nuanced areas of the social life of citizens. With this in mind, this chapter critically examines the meaning of illegal drugs and the taken-for-granted assumptions at work in Portugal’s drugs decriminalization strategy. It argues that the meaning and control of illegal drug use has been reconfigured by discourses of health, citizenship and drug prevention. Drug prevention is identified as an important, albeit overlooked mechanism of drug control through which young people are constituted as addiction vulnerable, with an obligation to care for their addiction vulnerable bodies by choosing health and prosocial activities illegal drugs. Essentially, this chapter advances an alternative view of the Portuguese decriminalization strategy as an empty policy framework, populated by a set of goals, strategies and interventions that tend to reproduce many of the beliefs, assumptions and control tactics associated with traditional drugs prohibition.
Walmsley, I. (2019). Drugs decriminalization: The art of governing drug using populations. In S. Wilson (Ed.), Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and Theory: Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances. Routledge