Gen. McCaffrey: Portugal's Drug Policy "B***S***"

By Will Godfrey 04/23/12

The former Drug Czar reacts angrily when The Fix asks him about following Portugal's example on decriminalization.

McCaffrey opposes drug decriminalization.
Photo via

A feisty exchange warmed up an overcast day in San Diego this morning. During the Freedom and Recovery conference on addiction treatment for service personnel, retired US Army general and former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey flatly rejected the idea that the US should follow Portugal's seemingly successful example of drug decriminalization. Fix co-founder and treatment specialist Joe Schrank asked the general during a Q&A, "Could Portugal's example of drug decriminalization work here?" Portugal decriminalized all drugs more than 10 years ago, a move that reportedly brought lower rates of drug use, drug-related deaths and HIV infections, and made people with addiction problems more likely to seek treatment.

But that wouldn't happen here, according to McCaffrey. He argued at length that "legalizing drugs would be an utter disaster," claiming that "low-level users" don't do time in the US, and concluding: "Portugal? Bullshit!" The remark drew some applause from the conference crowd at the Hotel Del Coronado, many of them treatment providers. McCaffrey, who was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for five years under Bill Clinton, is known as a scathing critic of the current administration's "anemic effort" to protect the southern border from the ravages of the Mexican drug war. Today he was speaking mainly about the increasing mental health and substance abuse problems that face returning veterans.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Will Godfrey.jpg

Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.