Is it right for Oregon to decriminalize all drugs?
- Oregon is the first state to decriminalize small amounts of street drugs like “cocaine, heroin, and meth.” Instead of going to jail for this offense, those arrested might be able to pay a $100 fine and go into an addiction treatment program.
- Addiction treatment will be funded by Oregon’s marijuana tax revenue, which totals over $100 million.
- According to the Oregon Nurses Association, 9% of people are addicted to drugs, while two people die from overdose daily in Oregon.
- According to the NSDUH, 19.7 million American adults 12 and older struggled with a substance disorder in 2017.
Decriminalizing all drugs benefits drug users because it breaks down the barriers to treatment that many addicts face and allows for a more humane reentry to society. Drug addiction is an illness, much like any other, and needs to be treated seriously and by medical professionals. By removing the illegal aspect of possession and usage, addicts will be more willing to seek help. In Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs, the number of addicts receiving treatment has risen by 60% since the late 1990s. Legalizing drugs leads to reduced needle sharing and a general harm reduction amongst addicts as they are less likely to hide overdoses and seek medical treatment when problems arise.
Drug legalization benefits all of society because it reduces mass incarceration and mass criminalization, which are very expensive for society to maintain. Mass incarceration for relatively minor offenses such as drug possession is known to disproportionately affect communities of color and those with lower socioeconomic status. Eliminating these unnecessary arrests would benefit these communities and help narrow the economic gaps in our society by keeping families together and allowing those who might be locked up a chance at honest work.
Oregon is on the leading edge of public opinion on drug decriminalization. As many people have realized, the war on drugs has not been working, and polls in Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and many other states have shown most of the population supporting decriminalization. The United Nations, WHO, NAACP, Red Cross, and many other international organizations have also expressed support for the decriminalization movement.
The United States separates drugs into three classes: Schedule I, II, and III. Schedule I drugs are defined as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It's arguable some drugs included in Schedule I do not belong there (such as marijuana, or some could argue LSD, ecstasy, and other similar psychedelics).
In the recent fight to remove these erroneous additions to the Schedule I list, some groups have included ALL drugs in their fight. The proposed decriminalization of ALL of these drugs would have damaging effects on society, as some drugs are so addicting, debilitating, and destructive that they have no place in our society (heroin and other opioids, methamphetamines, etc.). Officials must analyze these effects before taking any action like legalizing them wholesale.
While some drugs are arguably erroneously included in Schedule 1, some are there for very good reasons. Methamphetamine, for example, is a drug that would have no benefit to society if decriminalized. Meth is highly destructive and highly addictive; chronic use leads to consistent mental (violent behavior, psychosis) and physical (severe dental problems, sores, and lesions) degradation of the human body.
Additionally, heroin and other opioids are currently wreaking havoc across the United States. In 2018, 128 people died every day after overdosing on opioids (much of this due to misuse of prescription opioids). It is known that about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids. Do we really want that pathway to addiction so readily available to vulnerable sectors of our society?