Tribunal Constitucional

Drugs law changes: Constitutional court doesn’t raise objections

Decision opens “serious precedent” for autonomous regions

Discomfort over the government’s approved changes to drug laws were ‘validated’ today by Portugal’s Constitutional Court – meaning President Marcelo has little choice but to promulgate them; leaving autonomous regions – which were not consulted at any point – ‘out in the cold’

The president of Madeira’s regional parliament believes the Constitutional Court has set “a serious precedent”.

“This decision (…) is highly damaging to the interests of the Autonomous Regions,” said José Manuel Rodrigues in a written statement.

The court has validated the constitutionality of the decree that decriminalises synthetic drugs and makes a new distinction between trafficking and consumption.

President Marcelo had requested “a preventive abstract review” – and now he has it.

At the public reading held at the Ratton Palace in Lisbon, the reporting judge, Carlos Medeiros Carvalho, said the court “unanimously decided not to rule on the unconstitutionality” of the regulatory rules of the decree which, in Madeira’s opinion, “follows on from other (decisions) that have already been made, with a restrictive interpretation of the constitutional and statutory powers” of the autonomous region, this time making things even worse “since the President of the Republic raised a number of doubts about not hearing Madeira and the Azores” (…) and the court has essentially ignored him.

Carvalho alluded to the words of the previous President of the Constitutional Court, João Caupers, who, with regard to other similar decisions, recognised that there was an “ancestral centralist bias in the dominant political culture”.

Following today’s decision, Rodrigues is urging all “politicians in Madeira to get out of the lethargy surrounding Autonomy and start fighting for a real constitutional review.”

He argues that it is necessary to “extend the powers of Autonomy, clarify existing powers and guarantee the rights of the Portuguese on the islands in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic and in the Political-Administrative Statute of the Autonomous Regions”.

President Marcelo has shown that he is not particularly happy with the decision of the Constitutional Court, but that he will promulgate the law anyway.

In his request for review, sent mid August, he argued that “the regimes in question have serious public health implications, with recognised regional specificities”.

He also referred to the “significant administrative dimension, with an impact on regional organisation”.

The law was approved in parliament in July with PS, IL, BE, PCP, PAN and Livre voting in favour, Chega against and PSD and Socialist MPs Maria da Luz Rosinha, Carlos Brás, Rui Lage, Fátima Fonseca, Catarina Lobo, Maria João Castro, Tiago Barbosa Ribeiro, António Faria and Joaquim Barreto abstaining.

In the debate held at the beginning of July, PSD and PS justified the diplomas on the decriminalisation of synthetic drugs with the need to distinguish between traffickers and consumers, also warning of the impact of the new substances on the autonomous regions.

Madeira then asked Marcelo not to promulgate the law, claiming it violated the Constitution.

Source material: LUSA