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A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 31, Issue 5, 727, Article first published online: 5 July 2012

  • Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes BA (Hons), BSc, PhD, Research Fellow, Alex Stevens BA (Hons), MA, PhD, Professor in Criminal Justice.

Dr Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes, Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, The University New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 2 9385 0132; Fax: +61 2 9385 0222; E-mail:


In this Harm Reduction Digest two observers and scholars of the 2001 Portuguese drug policy reform consider divergent accounts of the reform which viewed it as a ‘resounding success’ or a ‘disastrous failure’. Acknowledging from their own experience the inherent difficulties in studying drug law reform, Caitlin Hughes and Alex Stevens take the central competing claims of the protagonists and consider them against the available data. They remind us of the way all sides of the drug policy debates call upon and alternatively use or misuse ‘evidence’ to feed into discussions of the worth, efficacy and desirability of different illicit drug policies. In doing so they provide pause for thought for those of us who operate as drug policy researchers and drug policy advocates.

Simon Lenton

Co-editor, Harm Reduction Digest