Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jun 2004
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Paul Kelso, in Lisbon
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Portuguese police officers will turn a blind eye to England supporters
who openly smoke cannabis during Euro 2004, having decided that a
stoned crowd is easier to control than a drunk one.

Lisbon police confirmed yesterday that England fans will not be
arrested for puffing on joints on the streets of the Portuguese
capital, following a recommendation from the Dutch authorities
responsible for policing the English during Euro 2000.

Four years ago England's match in Eindhoven, ironically against
Portugal, passed off peacefully as many supporters took advantage of
the Netherlands' liberal drugs laws. By contrast the game against
Germany in the Belgian town of Charleroi was marred by violence, much
of it fuelled by alcohol.

Portugal has similarly relaxed legislation to the Dutch and the
authorities hope it will help them police the 50,000 supporters
expected to arrive in the country in the next few days.

Possession of small amounts of cannabis is not illegal in Portugal
but, technically, consumption is. However, having liaised with the
Dutch, police will not act except in extreme circumstances.

Isabel Canelas, a spokeswoman for the Portuguese police, said cannabis
would be a low priority during the tournament. "Everyone knows that
here everyone can smoke. The police are doing another kind of job and
their priorities are different.

"We won't be hiding behind doors waiting for someone to smoke a joint.
We have to use common sense. If people are smoking but not kicking
each other, not beating each other, and not making a problem, why on
earth would an officer go and ask 'Is that cannabis?'

"If you are quietly smoking and a police officer is 10 metres away,
what's the big risk in your behaviour? I'm not going to tap you on the
shoulder and ask 'What are you smoking?' if you are posing no menace
to others. Our priority is alcohol.

"Of course, if people cause a problem through using drugs and become a
menace to others, police will be expected to take action. It would be
totally different when a police officer realises there's someone
trying to sell."

Visitors to Lisbon do not have to try too hard to buy the drug. The
city does not have "coffee shops" in the Dutch style, but tourists are
likely to be offered cannabis by street vendors.

Organisers have not restricted the amount of alcohol on sale during
the tournament despite the Football Association's concerns. Beer costs
just 66p a glass and will be freely available around stadiums and at
big screen locations.

Eindhoven police spokesman Johann Beelan said cannabis was a positive
influence on public order at Euro 2000. "Cannabis ... was part of the
conditions which meant everyone had a good time," he said.

British police estimated around 3,000 English supporters had arrived
in Portugal by last night, but there have been no reports of disorder
and no arrests.
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