Oregon has become the first state in the nation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of “hard drugs,” including methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, magic mushrooms, LSD, and oxycodone.
The state had already decriminalized cannabis in 1973, legalized medical marijuana in 1998, and then made recreational marijuana fully legal in 2014.
With the state passing the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA), the hope is that this bill will change possession of these drugs from a criminal, punitive-based approach to a more humane, cost-effective, health-based one.
The bill notes in part that “1 out of every 11 Oregonians is addicted to drugs” and that Oregon ranks nearly last in access to treatment, with two Oregonians dying each day from overdoses.
Oregon intends to use the money raised from taxing cannabis to pay for better treatment services, with the bill noting a more “holistic and healthcare-based” approach to the use of the conversation around drugs.
People suffering from addiction are more effectively treated with health care services than with criminal punishments. A health care approach 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.
Along with Oregon decriminalizing hard drugs, Arizona, South Dakota and New Jersey have all voted to legalize recreational cannabis. Montana and Mississippi also have those measures on the ballot but results have not come in yet.
While these hard drugs are decriminalized, so far it is only in small amounts – less than two grams in most cases. Criminal penalties have been replaced with a $100 fine, which can be waived if the user agrees to be evaluated at an authorized Drug Evaluation Center.
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