Smartshops (head shops) close in Portugal

First they get decriminalised, then headshops get closed

Background: The Portuguese government through Portaria nº 154 published the Decreto-Lei Nº 54/2013, de 17 de Abril (Decree-Law), “that defined the juridical regimen of prevention and protection against the advertising and commerce of the New Psychoactive Substances and forbids the production, inport, export, publicity, distribution, selling, holding or availability of the New Psychoactive Substances” (Diário da República, 1ª série – N.º 75 – 17 de abril de 2013). “It is an important step in responding to an alarming phenomenon,” stated the Secretary of State of Ministry of Health Fernando Leal da Costa.

Comment: “The world media is silent about this important Portuguese drug legislative measure,” commented Dr Manuel Pinto Coelho, MD PhD, professor at ISCE ,  visiting professor at UTAD – University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto  Douro,  researcher at CIDESD – Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health and Human Development, chairman of APLD – Association for a Drug Free Portugal, national representative at  European Cities Against Drugs National Representative, portuguese delegate at Drug Watch International, International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy. “EMCDDA president and portuguese SICAD João Goulão, an admitted legaliser, did everything he could, with undoubted success, to dampen disclosure of this timely and courageous Portuguese government decision.”

The EMCDDA has written (Drug Policy Profiles. Portugal. p24, 2011) that “Portugal´s decriminalising drug policy – as with all other national drug policies – is unlikely to be a ‘magic bullet’. The country still has high levels of problem drug use and HIV infection, and does not show specific developments in its drug situation that would clearly distinguish it from other European countries that have a different policy”.

Jorge Quintas has written (Escola de Criminologia da Faculdade de Direito da Universidade do Porto, Análise da experiência portuguesa da descriminalização do consumo de drogas, Assembleia da República “Grupo de Trabalho Toxicodependência e Álcool” da Comissão de Saúde 26.03.2013) has written that “The impact of the law that decriminalised drug use in Portugal confirms the result of the most anticipated experiences of decriminalisation: has little or no effect on drug use and addiction. The decriminalisation of consumption does not interfere decisively in the evolution of consumption indicators”.

Dr Manuel Pinto Coelho concludes that “Portugal, where every citizen may carry out in his pocket any drug at all from cannabis derivative to heroin and crack cocaine until 10 days that is considered for personal use and sanctioned only with a pecuniary fine, banned the production, import, export, advertising, distribution, sale and provision of the New Psychoative Substances in its entirety (Diário da República, 1ª série – N.º 75 – 17 de abril de 2013).  So all stores that sell legal highs are forced to close”.

The new substances covered by the law are those that “in pure form or in a preparation can be a threat to public health compared with the substances already listed in legislation”. In this new list are 48 phenylethylamines , 33 cathinone derivates, 36 synthetic cannabinoids, 4 cocaine derivatives / analogues, 5 plants and respective constituent assets and 12 miscellaneous items, including fertilisers and fungi.

The new law allows for additional new substances to ban. “At that moment we had identified 159,” Fernando Leal da Costa stressed, adding that the update will be “whenever there is a need.”

This law thus answers problems associated with the use of new psychoactive substances, which have been developed at an increasing rate and that are not included in the ban substances lists on United Nations Conventions, transposed into Portuguese law.