It's with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of former President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal, whose tireless work to reform drug laws saw Portugal become a model that forged the way forward toward rational and evidence-based drug policies. In the process, Portugal under his leadership went from having some of the highest drug dependency in Europe in the 1990s to radically reducing the incidence of drug harm in the country.
As Mayor of Lisbon and later as President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio had both the wisdom and the courage to put drug policy reform on the political agenda. He will always be remembered as a pioneer in supporting the decriminalization of people who use drugs, and as a tireless advocate for evidence-based drug policies which are respectful of human rights.
The Rt Hon Helen Clark, Chairwoman of the Global Commission On Drug Policy and former Prime Minister of New Zealand said on behalf of the Global Commission:
“Jorge Sampaio was one of the first former leaders to join the Global Commission. He was committed to ending the many harms caused by the ‘war on drugs’ and the outdated drug control policies associated with it. The Global Commission benefited greatly from his expertise and dedication to our common cause. His lifetime devotion to a better and fairer world will continue to inspire us to campaign for more humane and evidence-based drug policies.”
Long may his wisdom live on and influence policy makers and governments the world over, as we take steps towards a world in which sensible drug policies take shape and the citizens of progressive countries benefit from less oppressive laws.