What Does Oregon's Drug Decriminalization Bill Mean?
Published on 12/8/20
In the November 2020 election, Oregon took to the ballot and made decisions that will likely have huge ramifications for both the state and the country. The state voted for the Biden/Harris ticket by a wide margin, significantly increased the state tobacco tax, legalized psilocybin mushrooms for a state-funded medical program, and decriminalized all drugs. Yes. All drugs are to be decriminalized in the state of Oregon. So, what does this mean? Who is going to be affected by this decision? Is it going to have a positive or negative effect? Let's take a deeper dive into the new Oregon decriminalization and its potential implications.
The War on Drugs
We currently find ourselves at a shifting point in history, where over fifty years of the War on Drugs has eroded our perception of marijuana and other potentially beneficial drugs. This is not to say that all drugs are harmless, but that the pollical stance and subsequent social perception of many drugs have been twisted into something unhealthy. In 1971, President Nixon began the war on drugs. This led to most drugs being viewed on a policy level as morally offensive and legally obscene. Marijuana and psilocybin were both classified as Schedule 1 drugs, and decades of anti-drug propaganda flooded America. Since then, drug use has been tied up as a political excuse to prosecute marginalized, underrepresented communities and perpetuate systems of prejudice and racism.
A History of Progressive Oregon Marijuana Laws
The last ten years have been instrumental in changing America's view of drugs. As more states legalize marijuana, certain drugs are being reconsidered for their medicinal uses, including psychedelics such as psilocybin. Research continues to show that there are ways to beneficially use the application of certain drugs, and the more we legalize, the more research is conducted. The fact that Oregon decriminalized all drugs has likely helped us continue this path toward increased research and a better understanding of what certain drugs can help us with.
Oregon has helped lead the United States toward this more understanding perspective of what drugs are and can be. In 1998, along with Alaska and Washington, Oregon became the second state to legalize medical marijuana. Measure 67 was passed on November 3 by more than a 10 point margin. This law allowed doctors to prescribe patients medical marijuana and also established Oregon's medical marijuana program.
In 2014, Oregon became the third state to legalize recreational marijuana. Measure 91, much like its medical marijuana predecessor, passed by over 10 points and cemented Oregon as one of the most progressive states when it comes to marijuana. In addition to this, Oregon also has some of the most thorough guidelines for marijuana testing in the world. It makes sense it would be the first state to decriminalize all drugs and introduce a state-run psychedelic medical program.
The New Oregon Decriminalization Act & What It Means
The new Oregon drug law, called the Drug Decriminalization and Addition Treatment Initiative (Measure 110), was voted into effect with an overwhelming 58.47% of the total votes. The initiative's provisions are meant to go into effect on February 1, 2021. Here's what the initiative will actually do:
- Personal possession of controlled substances (heroin, psychedelics, cocaine, etc.) will legally result in no more than a $100 fine and a Class E violation.
- Establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program (that is funded, in part, by the state's marijuana revenue).
It is important to note that there are still many aspects of the initiative that need to be decided. However, with this new stance on drugs, Oregon looks to break some long-running systematic issues. Studies show that drug use and addictionare often only increased through prison time. By decriminalizing drugs and using rehab instead of jail, Oregon is offering a new perspective on how drugs should be dealt with. The initiative doesn't mean that these drugs are legal, but it does mean that Oregon will no longer look at drug use as a criminal act.
The initiative received praise from many civil rights and scientific groups, including the ACLU and the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians. Increased incarceration due to drug use means more prisoners gathered and vulnerable to the spread of diseases and other health risks. More than three out of four prisoners will return to jail, meaning that arrests over drug possession perpetuate a cycle of incarceration, especially within marginalized and underrepresented communities. The Oregon decriminalization initiative is offering a new way to address all of this and put an end to decades of unnecessary incarceration.
Following Portugal's Lead
While the Oregon decriminalization might be new to the United States, it's not the first time this sort of initiative has been implemented. For decades, Portugal had a massive heroin addiction crisis (it was estimated that 1% of the population was addicted to heroin). The problem continued to grow, despite government crackdowns and tougher laws on drug use.
It wasn't until 2001, when Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs that things began to change. Along with decriminalization, the Portugal government has taken a health-centered approach to handling drug use and addiction. Since then, HIV and drug-related deaths have diminished and the country's crisis has continued to subside. For many years, professionals have been looking to Portugal as the best example of how to treat drugs on a cultural and political level. Perhaps, hopefully, Oregon has just opened that door for the United States.
Do you live in Oregon or have an opinion about the ethics/logistics of a state where all drugs are decriminalized? Let us know what you think about this highly controversial topic by commenting below!