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Oregon Becomes First State to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Some Hard Drugs

Mikaela Mathews | Contributor | Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Oregon Becomes First State to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Some Hard Drugs

Oregon Becomes First State to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Some Hard Drugs

Oregon citizens voted to decriminalize hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, according to Fox News.

A vote of 59-41 percent tipped the scales to change the northwest state’s policy to “a humane, cost-effective, health approach.”

Approved by more than 100 organizations, including the Oregon Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the new bill will provide “a health care approach [that] includes a health assessment to figure out the needs of people who are suffering from addiction, and it includes connecting them to the services they need.”

Marijuana tax revenue, which has generated more than $100 million this year for the state, will fund the addiction services. Users found in possession of large amounts of the drugs, as well as drug manufacturers and distributors, will still be prosecuted. But the fine can be waived if the person agrees to an evaluation at Addiction Recovery Centers.

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership also endorsed the plan, stating that the new bill will free up officer’s time. “Every hour, police in Oregon arrest someone for drugs—at a time when Oregon has missing children, unsolved murders and a long backlog of cold cases,” a statement said. “This measure will free up police to focus more on what matters.”

However, two dozen district attorneys warned citizens that the bill “recklessly decriminalizes possession of the most dangerous types of drugs [and] will lead to an increase in acceptability of dangerous drugs.”

Though Oregon is the first state in the US to decriminalize these drugs, European countries gave leeway years ago with positive results. According to a 2015 report, Portugal’s drug overdose death rate is five times lower than the rest of Europe. The country has also not seen an increase in drug use.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, New Jersey and Arizona legalized marijuana. Montana, Mississippi, and South Dakota voters also decided on recreational marijuana, though the results have not yet been decided.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Oleksii Liskonih

Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.