How to Deal with the Drug Dealers of Lisbon

Image courtesy Ryan McGuire

When you’re in Lisbon for more than 10 minutes and you look foreign, or even Portuguese but not uptight, you’ll be approached by gentlemen offering you marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, and whatever else the kids are doing these days for kicks. Their favorite areas to offer you things to put into your pipe/nose/vein include Rossio square, Cais do Sodré circle, certain corners of Bairro Alto and, now, Principe Real. We can’t testify to the quality of their product personally, but what we can say is this:

The cops know they’re there.

Where there’s one, there’s another dozen a whistle away. Probably 100 or more within a 1-minute jog. Like you and I, they carry mobile phones. They all know each others’ numbers.

There are about 30,000 of them by some estimates, actually, although they rotate throughout Portugal and beyond.

Drugs — all drugs, mind you — are decriminalized in Portugal. And have been since 2001. Read here how that’s worked out for the country (it has, and Portugal’s now used as an example for drug reform around the world).

Those friendly gentlemen weren’t really around before the drug reform, from what most people remember.

Pay attention to what the locals do when they see them.

Pay attention to what the cops do when they see them offering anything.

Draw your conclusions.

Don’t sell them insurance, many have tried.

In fact, don’t try to sell them anything.

They’re reserved, so no need to antagonize them with stupid questions about their name or origin. Unless you really want to know, of course.

They don’t take kindly to threats.

They’re very handy with skewers in particular.

They understand “no, thanks” in at least 45 different languages.

5 thoughts

  1. Thanks for voicing your opinions! I’m pretty sure the whole city hates these guys, and that’s 100% legal to do.

  2. Hi,

    I read your article about the drugs, and it is stupid.
    1. It’s illegal to sell drugs in Portugal
    2. The gentleman that approach you on the street day are not selling real drugs, everybody knows that including the police and the local people.
    3. It’s not legal to sell drugs – if you get caught with drugs, you get arrested.

    You should do your research better next time. Because if my country was legal to sell drugs we would be just like Amsterdam.

    1. I don’t think being legal and being decriminalized is the same thing, Catarina. Everyone who lives here knows they aren’t real drugs, but I always see the tourists buying from them. It is a shame. The police should do something about this! I really liked the satirical tone of the article.

    2. Guess you are the one who needs to do some research. In Amsterdam (and all around the Netherlands) it is legal to buy weed and hasj in an authorized coffeeshop. These are the only (soft)drugs you can buy legally in The Netherlands. Also, by law it is only allowed to smoke in a coffeeshop or in your own house although nobody really cares. Same as Portugal I guess, I have never seen any trouble with people smoking weed/hasj and the police.

      I think decriminalization of drugs should be normal in every country, people will always use drugs and it should be accepted. Education and information about drugs has to be the most important factor.

      But back to Lisbon’s problem with these irritating dealers. Everybody hates them and it is so obvious to recognize them. Can’t believe nothing has happened to stop this bullshit because it is such a negative presence in the most beautiful city of Europe.

      In my opinion, by far most of the tourist just want to smoke some because they see the locals do it everywhere. So they will continue to buy this fake stuff. The government needs to allow some legal coffeeshops and kick the dealers out of the city centre

    3. Something has finally happened! The PSP, of all people, is putting up flyers warning people that they’re peddling laurel leaves and that they’re cheaper at Mercado Ribeira;)

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