Last updated: December 4, 2023
Citizens in the State of Oregon voted to decriminalize hard drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, oxycontin, and cocaine. Now, instead of possible jail time, anyone found in possession of small amounts of these and other hard drugs will receive a violation similar to a traffic ticket.
In fact, there won’t even be a trial—pay a $100 fine and agree to attend an addiction recovery program and that’s the end of it. The treatment centers are to be state-funded by the state’s legalized marijuana revenue.
Possession of larger amounts could warrant a misdemeanor charge and if the amount is considered to be of a commercial level, felony charges can still apply.
It’s a health issue, not a criminal one
Oregon’s population has swayed toward taking a different approach to drug addiction. The state’s new plan is to treat drug abuse as a health issue putting the priority on treatment.
The Oregon decision may be the first of many states choosing to take a new stance. In an interview with CBS News, Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use.”
The initiative passed by 60% of the vote. Advocates hope that changing the way the law handles drug abuse will remove the “criminal” stigma attached. Rather than shunning the criminal, it puts the spin on shunning criminalization.
That allows people to focus on getting help for the addict, increasing their odds of successfully beating their addiction.
In another ballot item, Oregon voters made the state the first to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, also known as magic or psychedelic mushrooms, for people aged 21 and older. Some therapists use mushrooms to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Legalized pot pushes forward
Oregon is obviously a national leader in matters of drug legalization. It became the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973. Medical marijuana use followed in 1998 and recreational marijuana use legally began in 2015.
Four states added themselves to the growing number allowing recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older.
- New Jersey
- South Dakota
That brings the total number of states allowing marijuana use to 15 plus Washington, D.C. It seems it’s just a matter of time until the entire nation treats marijuana in much the same way that it has come to treat alcohol use.
Of course, marijuana advocates hope that the increasing number of states legalizing the drug will put pressure on the federal government to change federal laws.
Help equals hope
Will the rest of the nation follow suit and prioritize the need for helping someone overcome their addiction to come before criminalization?
Well, in light of the fact that marijuana legalization is reaching farther across the nation, decriminalizing hard drugs such as semi-synthetic opioids, heroin, and methamphetamine could be in the stars.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) in 2018 there were 1,654,282 drug arrests in the United States. We know drug abuse is raging out of control in our country—heroin and opioid use are on the rise. So, focusing on helping someone beat their addiction and turning away from drugs is certainly worthwhile.
Decriminalizing it can benefit many Americans caught up in drug addiction, especially if treatment is provided for them. For now, we will use Oregon as our model to gauge by—good luck!