Home > Understanding successful policy innovation: the case of Portuguese drug policy.

Moury, Catherine (2023) Understanding successful policy innovation: the case of Portuguese drug policy. Addiction, 118, (5), pp. 967-978. (In Press) doi: 10.1111/add.16099.

External website: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.16...

BACKGROUND: In 2000, the Portuguese minority socialist government decriminalised the possession and consumption of drugs. This law made Portugal unique in having a formal system that directs the person using drugs to a panel under the purview of the Ministry of Health, as opposed to the Ministry of Justice, and hence constitutes an 'Original Innovation'. In this article, we ask under which conditions such kinds of reforms are introduced and successfully implemented

ARGUMENT: After discussing the limitations of the existing literature, we present a new theoretical framework: the 'six-stars' framework. We argue that successful policy innovation in democracies will only occur and persist when six institutional and individual 'stars' are aligned: attention, motivation to innovate, a new solution, political strategies, quality and legitimacy of the decision-making process, and guarantees for full implementation. We then apply this framework to the Portuguese drug policy case through theory-testing/process-tracing. Relying on a qualitative analysis of three different types of data - primary and secondary sources, official documents emitted by key actors and interviews - we identify the presence of the six aligned 'stars'.

CONCLUSIONS: The proposed 'six-stars' framework of successful drug policy innovation shows the importance of electoral mandates, communication, inclusion, transparency, deliberation, and evaluation when designing innovative drug policies. It also illustrates the importance of ensuring the support of implementing agents and quickly creating visible, positive policy feedback.

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