How to end the opioid crisis… Doug Casey – Do this to kill the drug cartels… Why Trump will legalize pot nationwide… In the mailbag: Is the government brainwashing people?
That’s how many people were addicted to heroin in Portugal during the late 1990s.
Between 1933 and 1974, this small country to the west of Spain was ruled by a right-wing dictatorship. And it shut off the Portuguese from the outside world.
In particular, the dictatorship was keen to stamp out any whiff of the mind expanding 1960s counterculture. (It even banned Coca-Cola and required a license to own a cigarette lighter.)
So when heroin started to flood the country after the regime fell… the population was completely unprepared.
Drug addiction rates soared. And the rate of HIV infections, due to needle sharing, rose to the highest in the European Union (EU).
Crime rates soared, too.
Here’s how Álvaro Pereira, a family doctor in southern Portugal, described those dark days to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper…
People were injecting themselves in the street, in public squares, in gardens. At that time, not a day passed when there wasn’t a robbery at a local business, or a mugging.
Even after the dictatorship fell in 1974, successive democratic governments tried to battle the heroin epidemic with draconian laws and national anti-drug campaigns that demonized both the drug and its users.
But with heroin use and HIV infections spiraling… and more than half the country’s prison population locked up on drug-related charges… the government took a radical step.
In 2001, it made Portugal the first country in the world to decriminalize all drugs.
Instead of facing a judge, Portuguese drug users are now sent to a “dissuasion panel” made up of lawyers, medics, and social workers.
And crucially, public funds that were spent on enforcement before 2001 are now spent on treating addicts… and solving the root cause of the drug addiction epidemic.
Before decriminalization, 90% of the country’s drug-fighting budget was spent on enforcement… and just 10% was spent on healthcare. Today, those figures are reversed.
From its peak in 1999, the number of heroin addicts in Portugal has been cut in half.
The rate of HIV infection has plummeted by more than 95%.
And drug-related deaths are now five times lower than the EU average.
As you can tell from the datelines at the end of these dispatches, I (Chris) spend part of the year in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. And I can tell you that there is no noticeable drug problem.
In the 1990s, at the height of the heroin epidemic, junkies were openly shooting up in the streets. Since I arrived here at the start of last year, I haven’t seen a single sign of public drug use.
In fact, Lisbon is hands down the safest city I’ve lived in (and I lived in Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires before moving here).
It’s not that Portugal completely eradicated drug use. But thanks to decriminalization, addicts are no longer seen as delinquents. Instead, they’re seen as otherwise law-abiding citizens with an addiction problem.
And this has made it easier to treat and manage their addiction.
Instead, we bring it up because the debate over the legalization of pot and other drugs has been a mainstay of the Daily Cut mailbag lately (including today’s below)…
…and because Portugal’s stance on drugs since 2001 throws America’s War on Drugs into sharp relief.
Regular readers will recall that the wave of pot legalization sweeping the globe is one of the big investment themes we’ve been tracking for you.
You may also recall that Legacy Research cofounder Doug Casey reckons that ALL drugs should be legal in the U.S. As he put it in the December 4 issue of The Daily Cut, he believes the War on Drugs is “morally insane.”
The U.S. is now suffering its worst drug addiction epidemic – mainly involving opioids – in its history.
And the toll it’s taking is mind-blowing.
In 2016, an estimated 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses.
That’s more than the combined death tolls for American troops in the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
On a per capita basis, Portugal’s death rate from drugs is just one-fiftieth of the U.S. rate.
Here’s Doug with more…
Illegalizing something does nothing but create a black market and give people a reason to induce other people to get high. I mean, people have been drinking alcohol for about the last 10,000 years. But it didn’t become a real problem until the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act passed in 1920. At that point, it financed the mafia. Laws turn simple bad habits into massive and profitable criminal enterprises.
And the same goes for other drugs. Doug again…
Drugs were a non-problem before the Harrison Act, which was passed in 1914. The act basically made all opium and coca derivatives illegal in the U.S. Before that there were very few people that were addicted to narcotics, even though narcotics were available to anybody at the local corner drugstore.
Addicts were looked down on as suffering from a moral failure, but there was no more profit in heroin than in aspirin. So there were no cartels or drug gangs.
Now, there’s an important distinction between the heroin epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s in Portugal and the opioid crisis in the U.S. today.
Most American opioid addicts are addicted to prescription pain medicines, not heroin smuggled into the country.
But here’s another interesting fact the drugs warriors ignore…
That’s according to a study last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.
It found that opioid prescriptions to Medicare patients (who are mostly over 65) dropped by 14% in states where cannabis is legal for medical use.
And prescriptions for the popular opioid hydrocodone – sold under the brand names Vicodin and Norco – dropped by 17%.
Today, cannabis is legal in some form or another in 31 states, plus Washington, D.C. Still, it remains illegal at the federal level.
But that’s about to change, says colleague Nick Giambruno.
Regular readers know that Nick closely follows the legal cannabis market over at our Casey Report and Crisis Investing advisories.
He’s spent hundreds of man-hours researching this market. And it’s led him to a startling conclusion…
Cannabis will be legal nationwide, likely before the end of President Trump’s term.
And pot’s proven ability to help stem the tide of opioid addiction is an important catalyst for change. Nick…
Many of the opioid prescriptions in the U.S. are made for things like back pain and other common conditions where opioids may not be the best option. But in many cases, there’s a much safer alternative to using opioids to treat pain – cannabis.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical compound found in cannabis – is particularly useful as a painkiller. Unlike opioids – which only mask pain – CBD can help fight pain and minimize inflammation.
Trump has already declared the opioid crisis a “national public health emergency.” If he’s serious about addressing the problem – and I think he is – he’ll have to acknowledge the role cannabis can play as part of the solution. And that can only further erode prohibition.
Fully legal cannabis is coming, in other words. And a big reason for that will be its use in fighting the opioid epidemic that’s ravaging America.
Nick has spent the last year and a half building a model portfolio of best-in-class legal cannabis companies for his readers.
They’re now sitting on several triple-digit winners… And just last month, Casey Report readers locked in a 371% gain on cannabis investment company Cronos Group (CRON).
Now, Nick believes the explosion in demand for CBD oil is the most lucrative opportunity in the legal pot industry he’s seen in a long time. To learn more, check out Nick’s new video presentation right here.
The big debate over pot legalization continues to rage in the mailbag.
Last week, reader Nico P. said, “Pot has been proven to have lasting psychotic effects that will eventually destroy the youth of this nation.”
But not everyone agrees…
Nico P. doesn’t have a clue. So many people were brainwashed by the government’s use of scare tactics and Nico P. is proof of that. For decades, researchers tried to find negative impacts caused by human consumption of marijuana. They never arrived at the results Nico P. suggests. He is passing on the lies of the past.
All that wasted time and research is typical of our government. They found nothing, zero, zilch, nada negative about marijuana use. Then lo and behold, they finally looked for the positive and in a few short years, they realized it is actually a miracle drug that effectively helps or cures more illnesses than any medication I’ve ever heard of.
I suspect that somehow, big pharma knew this and that’s when its name got muddied. And all the while, one of society’s biggest problems is still legal. A huge killer of so many in so many ways, the cause of so many woes, and actually does have negative psychotic effects when abused… which it is by an alarming number of people. It’s available just about everywhere and is relatively cheap. Alcohol, go figure.
– Bill E.
Smoking pot makes me paranoid and somewhat catatonic. Just not pleasant at all. If I were to smoke and drive, I could cause traffic problems. I know of others who function normally. I have not indulged nor wanted to. But I did not want to be around friends using because I could have been busted along with them. So some good friends and I drifted apart. Some did time for what is now accepted. I am glad we have finally come to legalization. I’ll choose a cocktail and an Uber any day, and be able to keep friends who prefer a good bud.
– Diane B.
Does pot have long-term effects? Perhaps. All studies on adults have shown no long-term effects, while studies on teenagers are mixed (New Zealand/Duke University). A recent study of long-term effects on twins showed no difference in cognitive development when one smoked and the other didn’t, regardless of age. The prevalent theory is that genetics and other familial factors play a dominant role.
But debating these health effects is not the point. If you have the government try to remove/control behaviors that are not good for us, they would ban alcohol, gambling, and sugar. As most of your readers consider government intervention as misguided (at best), the debate should focus on how much control we are willing to cede to protect the rest of us.
– Peter A.
What’s your take? Do the benefits of pot legalization outweigh any mental health concerns? Or will it, like Nico P. claims, destroy the youth of America?
Send your thoughts to [email protected]. We read every email you send in.
January 7, 2019