In recent years there has been much talk of the so-called “Portuguese model,” based on an initiative that led to the use of illicit drugs being decriminalised in 2001. In fact, it is often said that Portugal was the first country in Europe to decriminalise drug use de jure, while Spain, for example, took that step de facto for the first time in 1974, except that it was not through a specific law but rather as a result of a Supreme Court ruling.
The “Portuguese model” of drugs decriminalisation has clearly demonstrated that greater tolerance to drug users does not lead to an increase in consumption. Nevertheless it is a model with immense loopholes and contradictions.
A myriad of documents and records of meetings published by the UN, reveal a previously unwritten history of events leading to the 1998 UNGASS meeting. These show the extent to which the hardliners have gone to maintain the status quo through rhetoric, denial, manipulation, selective presentation, misrepresentation and suppression of evidence, selective use of experts, threats to funding, and purging "defeatists" from the UN system.