Last week Oregon lawmakers voted on a bill that would decriminalize possession of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Let me be clear: this does not mean that all drugs are legal in Oregon now. In this case decriminalization means that possession is downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. Offenders will be encouraged to seek treatment, rather than spend time in jail. This would also only apply to first time offenders. You can’t get caught with an eightball over and over again and expect leniency.
The sponsors of the bill hope that this will help deal with the state’s problem with mass incarceration, by treating addiction as a disease rather than a criminal issue. State senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem) co-chair of the Public Safety Committee who also voted in support of the bill had this to say, “We are trying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds. “We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.” Supporters hope that the bill will also help address racial disparities in the state’s criminal justice system. Oregon’s bill still needs to be signed into law, but when it is, the state will join others such as Colorado, California and Delaware.
As someone who has had my own struggles with addiction, I applaud Oregon’s move. The drug war is a failure. Jail sentences don’t work. Probation doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe that probation turned me into an alcoholic (more on that later). There is tons of data out there that shows addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. It’s time we treat it as such.
Source: Washington Post
Image Source: Rave Jungle
What are your thoughts? Is Oregon making the right move? Share in the comments below!