Oregon’s shot at ending the witch hunt

Marcus Hanneman

This is a picture taken from Vox.com

In 2020 of November The state of Oregon passed measure  110 which reclassified possession for specific drugs these drugs include heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, and Oxycotoe as well as others. The purpose of this measure is to make it easier to have health screening and recovery options for all people who need and want access to these systems. Oregon is the first American state to decriminalize “Hard” drugs, although they are following in the steps of some other countries that have already made this jump to treatment based options. This bill that Oregon has put into place was a step in the right direction for the state and for our country.

Drugs clearly are a problem in this country but are we really taking the best approach at fixing this disease that is addiction. Are we also taking any steps to stop the amount of people in our overflowing jails? According to NBC, a well known news company, ”Ballot Measure 110’s backers said treatment needs to be the priority and that criminalizing drug possession was not working.” Everything that is going on in today’s nation shows that what we have been trying isn’t working. From the amount of people stuck in jail to the thousands panhandling to get their next fix this just shows that it’s time for a change and a different way to look at this issue in our nation. According to the legislative policy and research office, “A person charged with a violation may instead complete a health assessment at an Addiction Recovery Center.” For context you can ethir pay a 100 dollar fine or you may complete a health assessment. This gives them yet another way to get help. If these people don’t want to pay the 100 dollar fine or simply can’t they are able to go and get a health assessment and turn that in instead of paying the 100 dollar fine. This is all about getting people help, instead of throwing them in a jail cell for a few years and just leaving them to possibly just get back to their addiction right after they get out of jail. According to the legislative policy and research office, “With the passage of Measure 110, convictions for both felony and misdemeanor possession of controlled substances are expected to be greatly reduced. Overall, the CJC estimated that there will be an almost 91 percent reduction in convictions.” This will keep people out of the system which was always the right idea. These people are struggling with addiction and a disease and keeping them out of the jail system is the right idea. Keeping them out of the jail system will make it easier for them to get the help that they need. This will also help free up money that would be spent on jails for these various programs that will be put in place to help anyone who needs help getting rid of a dangerous drug addiction.

The true mission is to get these drug dealers to stop dealing on the streets and murdering people with fake durgs and just drugs that flat out not supposed to be consumed unless prescribed. This is about getting the users help. So what is Oregon’s measure 110 doing to make that happen? According to the legislative policy and research office, “Measure 110 establishes a program that provides grants to existing agencies or organizations to create Addiction Recovery Centers (Centers) to provide immediate triage of the acute needs of people who use drugs and to assess and address ongoing needs through intensive case management and linkage to care and services.” Providing these existing agencies or organisations with grants will help bring needed resources in to be able to better accommodate more people in their treatment centers. Giving out these grants should be looked at nationwide even if they don’t want to implement such a big bill at this time. Giving these grants to existing agencies will help get people better instead of throwing them in a jail cell and hoping for the best”. According to NBC, a well known news company, “Oregon is a pioneer in liberalizing drug laws. It was the first state, in 1973, to decriminalize marijuana possession. In 2014, Oregon voters passed a ballot measure legalizing recreational use of marijuana. But Sutton said there are no plans to pursue legalization and a regulated market of hard drugs in Oregon.” This proves that they know what they are doing. They were one of the first states to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and look at where we are today. Many states are now following in their footsteps and some states are even legalizing recreational use of marijuana. This shows that they have been one of the first states to take that leap of faith on drug possession and other related laws and it has turned out relatively well for them.” According to NBC, a well known news company, “After decriminalization, about 3,700 fewer Oregonians per year will be convicted of felony or misdemeanor possession of controlled substances, according to estimates by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.” This is the right idea. It was always about getting these drugs off the streets, and having it so cops can focus on the real problem which are the dealers not the users. Also keeping people out of jail will give them a way to get clean by themselves and give them an option in the matter instead of them having to just sit in a jail cell and use up tax payer dollars. This will help them get back to being productive members of society quicker. NBC, a well known news company says this, “While this approach is new in the United States, several countries, including Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland, have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs, according to the United Nations.” This has worked in other countries so why wouldn’t it work in ours. This is a step that other countries have made and It is the right idea, these people have an addiction, they have a disease. So this approach, while new to our country, is a good idea and has worked in other places so there is no reason that It could not work here in our own country.

Here are some statements about things that people think are going wrong but are slowly and steadily moving in the right direction or have already kicked in. According to Sophie Quinton of pewtrusts.org, “Oregon’s inpatient facilities, detox clinics and recovery-focused nonprofits also have been battered by COVID-19 and workforce shortages in recent years. It’s unclear whether service providers can expand to serve more clients, some behavioral health advocates say.” While covid has become a real issue in keeping people employed and working there is a solution. That solution is to get people vaccinated. This will keep people able to work and if they somehow still do get covid this will get them back to work sooner. And with government funding this will be a short lived problem because there will be more money offered to work at these clinics. Even if that fails, that is what the grants are for; they are to help out these facilities with money so they can further their amount of workers. According to Sophie Quinton of pewtrusts.org, “Defendants failed to show up in court to make their case against about half of 1,300 citations issued through September for possession of small amounts of drugs, according to the Oregon Judicial  Department. In only seven cases did defendants submit a health assessment to get their fines waived.” This shows that this is not working is what some people would say but I think that this is still a step in the right direction. Some people are submitting health forms which shows that it is working in some capacity and things like this do take time. It will take a bit to get workers to come work at these  clinics and make it easier therefore to get treatment. But as well there’s still half of the people that did show up and that means that this is working slowly yet surely. According to Sophie Quinton of pewtrusts.org, “Both [people] noted the role police and courts play in helping people access treatment. And McKinney said in written testimony that decriminalizing drugs “sends a mixed message that fails to recognize how dangerous these drugs are and normalizes their possession.” This is false because we have been preached to about how bad drugs are since we were in kindergarten. So this should not become an issue. No one who wasn’t already on drugs will not just go hop on methamphetamine because drugs are decriminalized because of the horrible effects that it has on you. We have all been preached this for such a long time.  The decriminalization of these drugs will not make it so the symptoms are lesser or that it will be more available; it will just help people have a way out that isn’t jail. 

Decriminalization of these various drugs is a step in the right direction and I think that all states can learn from what Oregon has done. We are often scared to stand out and make changes because we are creatures of habit that is why this took so long to happen but with all of us coming together we can find a better option to help our own kind and make a difference in this nation and this world.