Dope = Happy. Booze = Mad.

The Euro2004 European Football Championships are now well underway, with the first set of games completed last night, and the usual fears of violence among national team supporters that accompany such tournaments so far proving unfounded. Yes, there recently was some sort of confrontations with the police by English fans in Albufeira, as well as a German attack on rival fans in Porto, but the Guardian reports that Portuguese officials are playing down the seriousness of such incidents. (The British Home Office supplied here a useful explanatory phrase: “typical of the alcohol-fueled disorder common in Mediterranean resorts rather than orchestrated football hooliganism.”) Such assessments could well mean that the incidents were truly not serious – or they could ironically mean in the case of the English fans that authorities are desperately trying to ensure that the bluff of the European football association (UEFA) is not called, to the effect that the British football team would be expelled from the entire tournament if British fans misbehaved.

But let’s take the optimistic view that the confrontations in the fields outside the respective Portuguese sports stadiums are going along fairly peacefully. This could very well be thanks to a new policy wrinkle taken up by the Portuguese police, and reported in the German weekly Die Zeit (Learn from Holland): a green light for smoking dope.

Yes, as the Euro2004 tournament approached the Portuguese authorities made it clear that hash would be OK (and marijuana, etc.) and would not encounter any intervention or restrictions on its use from the police. Portugal already has fairly relaxed drug laws, but they still normally forbid distribution of soft drugs or their (ostentatious?) consumption out in public, and the local authorities were willing to forget about all that during the course of the tournament. They did not intend to be so kind towards alcohol, although naturally this did not extend to banning it outright – Prohibition was not to be allowed a historic come-back in Portugal in the summer of 2004. What the hard line on alcohol presumably meant was probably merely things like greater police watchfulness for misbehavior in areas with a lot of bars, together with the usual restrictions on drinking alcohol outside of those establishments.


The reasoning behind all this is that, while alcohol brings out the street-fighting man, smoking wacky-weed tends to turn even aggressive young men, as Jürgen Krönig puts it in the Die Zeit article, into “peaceful little lambs” (friedliche Lämmchen). The Dutch police have already known this for a while, thanks to the Netherlands’ own long-standing legal laxity on soft drugs, and they put this knowledge to good effect in the last European football championships in 2000, which they hosted. Or, actually, that they co-hosted, along with Belgium, a sister-country where, however, smoking dope is strictly prohibited, and the beer is strong and good. And so the two host-countries in 2000 presented as close to a perfectly set-up sociological experiment as you could find: English supporters (alcohol-fueled) running rampage against rival nationalities in Belgium (e.g. in Charleroi, where the English played – and won – against the Germans), while everyone happy and loving and peaceful under a marijuana smoke haze over in Holland (e.g. in Eindhoven, where the English played – and lost to – the Portuguese; but could it be that the English simply get along better with the Portuguese?).

Congratulations! concludes Krönig: “in these times of growing disillusionment with Europe and its institutions, it is pleasing that at least police forces are ready to learn from the experiences of others.” For my part, this EuroSavant is certainly far from ready to recommend wacky-weed indulgence, but rather likes successful pragmatism wherever he sees it.

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