Oregon is an amazing state, and it got even more so last month when its legislature voted to defelonize cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, oxycodone, LSD and ecstasy.
Oregon already had a weed-friendly history that goes back to 1973, when it became the first state in the union to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. In 1998, medical marijuana went legal, and in 2015, recreational weed was legalized.
While states across the land have stepped up to legalize or decriminalize medical and/or recreational pot in soaring numbers (29 so far), people get a bit squeamish about doing the same with hard drugs.
Although it is widely reported that when Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and replaced criminal sanctions with civil penalties and health interventions, drug use did not explode. Indeed, the opposite occurred.
Then, of course, only recently the United Nations called for decriminalization of all drugs, so it’s not as though Oregon is suggesting something unheard of, or unreasonable.
However, it is worth noting that this is not an all-out legalization bill; rather, it will decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs for people who do not have more than two prior drug convictions or any felony convictions.
If it becomes law, Oregon will become the first state to defelonize hard drugs.
So why is this a good idea?
The logic is: lifting prohibition on hard drugs will usher in even more benefits than legalized weed because hard drugs are more dangerous, just as the failed War on Drugs is, was and always will be.
Oregon’s law would follow a model close to Portugal, where the number of overall drug users fell during the first 15 years of decriminalization.
The number of heroin addicts was cut in half, with most remaining addicts in a form of treatment. Meanwhile, drug overdose rates have fallen, and Portugal’s overall drug-induced death rates are more than five times lower than the European Union average and don’t hold a candle to ours, which are exorbitant and climbing.
In view of the heroin and opioid crisis facing our country, we are clearly in need of innovative solutions.
The likes of the president’s opioid commission, which suggests dispatching opioid units around the country, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plans to build more private prisons and throw drug users (including MMJ consumers) inside them are not going to cut it.
Prohibition makes dangerous drugs more dangerous. Hence, Oregon’s bill is a step in the right direction.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat from Portland, agrees with many drug education experts that addiction should be treated as a public health problem—not a criminal one.
“We’ve got to treat people, not put them in prison,” said Greenlick. “It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes. This is a chronic brain disorder, and it needs to be treated this way.”