Oregon Becomes First State To Decriminalise Possession Of Small Amounts Of All Drugs
Oregon has just become the first state in the US to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of all drugs.
As of today, February 1, those who are caught with small amounts of drugs – including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine – won’t face any criminal charges.
Instead, they will now have the option of paying a $100 fine or else agree to go for a health assessment at a drug treatment facility.
This measure will also fund treatment for drug addiction and harm-reduction efforts through the relocation of tens of millions of dollars from Oregon’s cannabis tax. It’s expected that funds will also come from state savings made by reductions in arrests, incarceration and official supervision.
Over the course of the next decade, Measure 110 will be implemented by state officials from the Oregon Health Authority, with advocates believing this new health care-based approach will prove life-changing for thousands of those living in the state.
Kassandra Frederique, executive director of national non-profit the Drug Policy Alliance, told USA Today:
One of the things people misunderstand is how criminalization creates barriers to treatment. If we want people to make different choices, we have to give them more options… ending criminalization will do leaps and bounds around ending shame, which automatically opens people up for other opportunities.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a critic of the so-called War on Drugs, told USA Today:
I hope that we all become more enlightened across this country that substance abuse is not something that necessitates incarceration, but speaks to other social ills – lack of health care, lack of treatment, things of that nature.
If you’re white and wealthy, you get an opportunity to get a break, go home to your family and go into some kind of health care environment.
Watson Coleman added that it’s also far more expensive to pay for a person to be incarcerated than to get them the treatment they need, saving communities money as well as empowering those who need help.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Association has estimated that decriminalization will result in a 95% decrease in the racial disparity seen in low-level drug arrests in Oregon, VICE reports.
It’s hoped by many advocates this new policy could reflect a shifting attitude across the US and beyond in regards to how those who struggle with drug addiction are treated by society.
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