Contrary to media reports and partisan think tanks, Portugal and the Netherlands have not legalized drugs, including marijuana. In Portugal, someone caught with a small amount of drugs is sent to a three-person panel and given treatment, a fine, or a warning and release. The result of this 2001 policy is less clear. Treatment services were ramped up at the same time the new policy was implemented, and a decade later there are more young people using marijuana, but fewer people dying of opiate and cocaine overdoses.
In the Netherlands, officials seem to be scaling back their marijuana non-enforcement policy (lived out in “coffee shops”) after witnessing higher rates of marijuana use and treatment admissions there. The government no longer allows non-residents to buy marijuana. What all of this says about how legalization would play out in the hyper-commercial US, which is obsessed with advertising, is another point entirely.