Oregon, long regarded as a state that promotes progressive policies, was the first to decriminalize hard drugs in the United States. Measure 110 was passed in November 2020.
According to research, there were over 1.6 million drug arrests in America in 2018. More than three quarters (86%) of these drug addicts were arrested for small-sized drug possession. Even more were arrested for minor drug-related offenses like minor selling or distribution violations.
What’s the difference between legalizing and decriminalization?
Although they may sound similar, there is a big difference. Legalization means that there are no consequences whatsoever for the possession, sale, or use of drugs under a certain amount. Except for marijuana, most drugs won’t be legal. They will no longer carry criminal penalties.
The removal of criminal penalties for using a substance that is within the legal guidelines is called decriminalization. A user may be fined or required to complete a treatment program if they are stopped for using drugs that exceeds the legal limit. This is similar to what happens if you are given a speeding ticket.
Oregon has decriminalized drugs.
Oregon was the first state to decriminalize drugs beyond marijuana. This is to raise awareness about addiction, encourage people not to use these drugs and provide more treatment options for those who are addicted. This applies to a variety of drugs such as crack, heroin and cocaine, as well as crystal meth and other substances. This law change does not affect legal drugs, such as prescription medication or marijuana. Legal drug use will not be affected by the law change.
What happens if someone is arrested for drug possession?
Prior to the passing of this law, drug possession was a serious crime that could result in arrest and possibly lengthy jail sentences. Even small amounts of drug possession could lead to felony charges.
This is no longer true. A person caught in Oregon with hard drugs will now have two options.
- A $100 fee is required.
- Participate in recovery programs that can help them with any drug problems. These programs are funded by taxes that are levied upon marijuana legalization.
What happens if I don’t have insurance?
Those who are mandated to attend treatment will be able to do so regardless of their insurance coverage. Recovery options for drug offenders will be funded by the taxes resulting from marijuana legalization. This change in law will allow those who previously didn’t have access to treatment to be able to participate in these potentially life-saving programs.
Does Oregon have the right to decriminalize drugs in its only state?
Oregon is the only American state to have made all drugs decriminalized. For many years, drug decriminalization was the law in several European countries, including Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Portugal has decriminalized drugs since almost 20 years ago. It has taken time to assess the country’s impact. The researchers found that drug use has not declined, but significant progress has been made in reducing addiction’s harmful effects.
- Portugal’s drug use rate is still lower than that of the European average, and much lower than those in the U.S.
- Between 1998 and 2011, the number of people who have been treated for drug addiction has increased by more that 60%.
- There has been a significant drop in new HIV diagnoses. There were 1,575 HIV cases in 2000. In 2013, there were only 78.
- The number of new AIDS cases has declined from 626 cases in 2000 to 74 in 2013.
- Portugal saw a marked drop in deaths from drug overdoses. From 80 deaths in 2001 to 16, 16 in 2012.
- The number of drug-related arrests and convictions has fallen by 60% annually.
- Between 1999 and 2013, nearly half of those in prison for drug-related violations fell from % in 1999 to 44% in 2013. The number of drug-related arrests and convictions in 2013 was %.
Would more people use drugs if it was decriminalized for them?
Some argue that criminalizing drug use will encourage more drug use. This argument was used by more than 24 Oregon District Attorneys who opposed Measure 110’s passage.
It has not been shown that legalizing hard drugs led to an increase in drug use. This is based on the experience of countries that have done so. Some 30 countries around the world have decriminalized drugs. Decriminalization is a solution to a public problem like addiction, which these countries and others are starting to see.
Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs did not result in a huge increase in drug use. Instead, it caused a drop in overdoses, deaths, and arrests. Similar experiences have been had in other countries that have decriminalized drugs. Oregon’s decriminalization of drugs is expected to produce similar results.
The Benefits and Cons of Decriminalization
There are many pros and cons to decriminalizing drugs. There are many positives to decriminalizing drugs and ending the war against drugs. It could reduce the prison population and increase access to rehabilitation programs, which can eventually prevent people from using hard drugs.
This could reduce the number of felonies convicted by approximately 3,700 per year, and greatly expand the options available for those seeking help. This could lead to a decrease in drug demand and a happier life.
Other positives include a decrease in the number of minorities incarcerated as a result of drug-related offenses. Research has shown that drug criminalization is most prevalent among ethnic minorities. Therefore, removing criminal penalties will undoubtedly reduce this burden.
States can also make significant tax savings by reducing the costs of arrests and incarceration. According to the New York Times, more than $1 is saved by criminal justice systems for every dollar spent treating. This shows that substance abuse costs are higher in most states when people are not treated by the criminal justice system.
This does not mean that the entire venture is without risk. Measure 110 opponents argue that it will increase drug abuse and cause more innocent deaths from drug wars.
There is a link between drug abuse and certain diseases like HIV/Hepatitis C. It is possible that decriminalization could increase the likelihood of these diseases spreading. It is also concerning to see if there will be an increase of hard drugs available, increasing the addiction potential for high-risk individuals.
It is not clear that people will have enough help to overcome their addiction. People will continue to fear that they won’t get the help that they need until that time arrives.
Get help right away if you or someone you care about is addicted to drugs. There are many health care options that can help. For more information about how we can help you or your loved ones get back on track, please call us today.
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