Oregon residents might be able to decide this November if all drugs should be set free
A ballot initiative that will be presented to Oregon residents this coming November could lead to Oregon becoming the first state to completely decriminalize drug use and possession in the state. Initiative 44 aims to end the criminalization of simple drug possession of small amounts of all drugs, not just cannabis. This would be done by changing the penalties from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a $100 administrative fine instead of jail time. According to a federal government survey, nearly two people die in Oregon every day related to drug overdoses and one out of every 11 Oregonians is struggling with an addiction, so the state wants to destine more resources into making drug treatment and recovery services for adults more accessible.
As part of this bill, it has been proposed that the excess tax money from the sale of legal marijuana should be used to create and support a new program for drug treatment, recovery and harm reduction, which would take place outside of the criminal justice system. A provision of this bill suggests that those who accept to voluntarily undergo a treatment assessment under the new system can get the proposed fine waived. “What we’re trying to do is put drug use back where it belongs, which is under that public health scope and completely remove it from the criminal justice system,” said Matt Sutton from Drug Policy Action, a nonprofit national harm reduction organization backing up this bill.
If the bill is approved, this could the first step towards a change in the never-ending and ineffective war on drugs that has been going on in the country for more than half a century. This action could also be a positive change for communities of color who have been long mistreated by the criminal justice system.