The Guardian, Transform Drug Policy Foundation
In Portugal since 1933, strict authoritarian rule had controlled people's freedom, for instance Coca-Cola was banned and you need a license to own a cigarette lighter, and the country was closed off from the outside world. In 1974, the regime ended by a military coup, which led the country to open up and gain more freedom.
This sudden freedom, however, caused a widespread of drug use, like heroin, among people all over the country while they knew drugs were bad for them. Moreover, HIV infection through drug needles also became a big national issue.
Under this situation, Portugal took an unique strategy to solve the issue and decriminalized personal drug use and possession in 2001. Instead of punishing, the country strengthened its rehabilitation program for treating drug addition as well as improving prevention and social welfare system since drug use is considered not a crime but a health issue. The idea is also based on the fact that the eradication of all drugs is impossible.
Portugal does not distinguish the type of drugs whether it is hard or soft and focused on reducing the reason for the drug use. This is why sales, trafficking and manufacturing of drugs are still illegal and police can confiscate drugs that one possesses and send the person to a drug addiction center.
This unique policy that combines decriminalization of drug use and improving social and health system succeeded in decreasing drug use especially among young people.
The idea was discussed in the first UN General Assembly Special Session on the Global Drug Problem (UNgass) that set drug policy for all member states in 1998, and since then cannabis legalization became a big change globally.