Interview with João Goulão

"We are truly satisfied when countries cease to consider the addict as a criminal"

Dianova representatives, Elena Goti and Michele Bellasich, met with João Goulão during the 58th session of the CND in Vienna. Mr. João Goulão is a member of the Board of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Director of the Intervention Service for addictive behaviors and addictions (SICAD), Portugal.

A physician by profession, Mr. Goulão has decades of practical experience in the field of drugs not only at the policy level but also in the prevention and treatment spheres at the national, European and international levels.

Our first question was related to his position on the board of the EMCDDA. We asked him if the EMCDDA had noted any changes due to some country’s new trends in cannabis legislation. His answer was negative. However, he remarked that even though the European registries showed no significant change, those concerned continue to keep a very close watch on the situation.

As Portugal’s “drug czar”, Mr Goulão explained that his country’s economic situation remains highly problematic an that most efforts were directed to housing and health programs and to somewhat alleviate a rampant poverty and the increasing marginalization of part of the population. However, he asserted that the authorities remain open as regards the issue of drugs and that more resources would be allocated in the future.

As head of the Portuguese delegation to the 58th session of the CND, Mr. Goulão told us that Portugal is supporting the participation of civil society in all the preparatory stages of the UNGASS.

In recent decades, Europe has made progress in the prevention, treatment and respect for human rights. Therefore, rather than thinking in terms of change, Europe intends to support and encourage those countries which still need to make progress in these areas. 

" We are truly satisfied when a countries cease to consider the addict as a criminal, when they agree to waive the death penalty and decide to provide healthcare to those in need" Mr. Goulão told us with some emotion.

We asked him what would be, according to him, the changes to expect from the preparation of the UNGASS and the CND resolutions. Mr. Goulão reiterated that the issue of drug and treatment modalities are more or less balanced on the European continent. However, we must move forward on the issue of human rights and to improve treatment modalities in Latin America and Asia, which is a position agreed upon in the European group. He concluded by stressing that the European group was pleased to see some countries abandon the death penalty for traffickers, or when they provide addicts with healthcare rather than sending them to jail.