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Oregon Voters Take Further Steps To End The “WAR ON DRUGS”

For many years, it has been widely recognized that the “War on Drugs” was a dismal failure. The greatest single impact of the failed “War on Drugs” was to destroy the lives of millions of people, primarily Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities. Enlightened thinkers now realize that the best solution to problem of drug addiction in America is to treat the matter as a public health problem, and to offer treatment, not incarceration.

In the most recent election, voters made Oregon the first state in the country to decriminalize user amounts of street drugs and other substances through Ballot Measures 109 and 110. Formerly prosecuted as felonies, these now-decriminalized drugs include heroin, cocaine, psilocybin, and meth. The intention behind Ballot Measures 109 and 110 is to decriminalize these substances for health purposes. Those who require opioids for legitimate medical treatment will be able to have supervised access to them without the criminal justice system getting heavily involved.

At the height of the “War on Drugs”, incarceration was the default; treatment was the exception. Countless prisoners suffering from drug dependency were criminally punished, instead of receiving the help they need to recover. A rising consensus – including all elements of the political spectrum – acknowledges that those policies were a dismal failure. Even today, however, some prosecutors criticize reform legislation as leading to an increase of drug addiction.

Because of the passage of Ballot Measures 109 and 110, the “Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act” will soon remove the “criminality” stigma of these drugs and replace them with treatment and rehabilitation. Those found in Oregon with personal-use drugs will no longer be targets for the criminal justice system, however there will still remain laws that could result in fines of up to $100, as well as referrals of defendants to treatment programs.

The Legislature will address some of the details as to how Ballot Measures 109 and 110 shall be implemented; however it must be recognized that the passage of this legislation by Oregon voters constitutes a progressive step forward for those struggling with drug addiction. The passage of Ballot Measures 109 and 110 reflects a sea change in the criminal justice system’s misguided approach to prosecution of crimes arising from substance abuse, which can better be addressed through treatment and rehabilitation. Hopefully, these new laws will also alleviate the systemic racial disparities in policing and enforcement which have been evident within the State of Oregon.

Congratulations to Oregon voters for taking further steps to rationalize our policies relating to drug addiction, and to take another step away from the tragic failure of the “War on Drugs”.

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