Oregon, The First-Ever State To ‘Decriminalize’ Hard Drugs

Nov 20th, 2020

How would you consider drug addiction? Should it be a public health issue? Or a criminal issue? Recently, the Oregon voters passed a measure that will decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. And because of this, Oregon becomes the first state in the country to decriminalize these hard drugs.

But you have to remember that Measure 110 will not make these drugs legal. And people who are caught with these drugs in possession will still be arrested by the police. But what will change is how these people will be arrested based on the number of drugs that they have in possession.

The small-quantity offenders will no longer have to worry about trial and possible jail time. Instead, they will only have to be required to pay a fine of $100. They will also have to attend a required addiction recovery program which will be funded by the state’s legal marijuana tax revenue.

And those who will be caught with 40 or more Oxycodone pills, 2 grams or more of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, will have to face misdemeanor charges. Before this Measure 110 is rolled out in 2021, larger possessions of these drugs will be a felony charge.

Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of Drug Police Alliance, talked about the measure with the New York Times. She said, “This is like taking a sledgehammer to the cornerstone of the drug war.” The chief petitioner for the measure, Janie Gullickson, said that the current system failed. Gullickson said, “It’s expensive and it ruins lives. A public health approach to addiction is long overdue.”

Currently, the state law treats cases with fewer than two drug-possession convictions as a misdemeanor or other felony conviction. But once this new law is rolled out in 2021, it will make these offenses only a civil violation.

On the other hand, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission said that passing Measure 110 is expected to lead to a 91% reduction in drug arrests and convictions in the state. More supporters of Measure 110 believe that this current model of punishment believes that without providing proper treatment, it dehumanizes the people who are in need of serious and immediate help.

During the Oregon Public Broadcasting interview with petitioner named Anthony Johnson, he said, “It’s imperative that we change our culture so that people suffering from addiction aren’t stigmatized and isolated. By treating them as criminals, you prevent them from coming forward. They are often scared to come forward to their friends and family because they’re considered second-class citizens.”

Those who oppose Measure 110 was such a huge move to reduce the punishments of possessions of these types of drugs. They believe that reallocating money for the treatment of those who are caught will not improve the drug addiction issue the way the initiative intends it to be.

In fact, law enforcement officials are worried that removing the criminal deterrent of drugs would only lead to more drug use and will not help in reducing it.

Aside from Oregon, five more states legalized marijuana use for adults. What are your thoughts about decriminalizing illegal drugs? Do you think the new Measure 110 is going to be successful? Will it really help reduce the number of drug use in the state?