On Monday (February 1), Oregon’s law that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs including heroine, oxycodone, meth, and others went into effect. Under the law, police in the state can no longer arrest someone for having small amounts of drugs on them, instead, they could face a fine of $100 or a health assessment that might provide the person with addiction counseling.
The ballot measure passed in November during the general election and is being lauded as a revolutionary step for America.
“Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen, setting off what we expect to be a cascade of other efforts centering health over criminalization,” Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which led the effort to get the measure onto the ballot said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The decriminalization law represents a stark contrast to the legal measures put in place during the 1980s and 1990s when crack cocaine ravaged Black communities across the country, the aftermath of which is still being felt.
During that time, funding for substance abuse counseling was cut, police departments were , minimum sentences were imposed for drug users and sellers all of which led to an exponential increase in the prison population.
Oregon’s law is set up to open up help including case management services to assist people dealing with substance addiction.
Addiction recovery centers that provide the services will be funded by millions of dollars that come from the state’s legalized marijuana industry. Last year, marijuana tax revenue reached a peak of $133 million, leaving plenty of funds for the centers.
“In the future, as Oregon’s treatment programs reach full funding, the state should evaluate what other services would benefit from our continually growing marijuana tax revenues,” Oregon Education Association President John Larson wrote in an email to the outlet.
While the measure is revolutionary in the US, other nations like Portugal, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have had measures in place for years.
In 2000, Portugal decriminalized drugs and saw no surge in use, in fact, the country marked a decrease in drug-related deaths as people were getting treated for addiction.
For the US, measures like the one in Oregon might open up other states to treat addiction, rather than criminalize it.
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