The Greek government made the first big step regarding decriminalization of drug use. Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou presented to the Greek Parliament the basic ideas of a new law concerning drugs. He announced that, for the first time, drug use will be fully decriminalized in Greece, on the condition that the drugs used harm only the behavior and the condition of the user. However, the Minister noted, the possession and supply of drugs and cultivating of cannabis remain punishable actions.
The Minister explained that these actions would be now regarded as misdemeanors, as long as it effects only the user and no others. Minister Papaioannou noted that the law had to be changed because of the minor danger of specific actions. In this way, police will have the ability to deal more quickly and easily with more severe issues. The Minister stressed that the law has a therapeutic approach to the issue and every drug user will be treated as an addicted person who needs help rather than punishment.
The Canadian government also has suggested it may decriminalize marijuana, a move criticized by U.S. drug and border agencies, which threaten more intrusive searches of cross-border travelers.
In early June, Connecticut lawmakers voted 90 to 57 in favor of Senate Bill 1014, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use by adults.
In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.
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, according to a report released by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.
"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator.