Source: Matt Agorist
In November 2020, in a near-landslide, Oregon became the first state in history to decriminalize all drugs, including hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth. Showing the will of the citizens, the vote passed with 59% of voters in favor.
The following February, the new law went into effect. The “Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act” began to transition Oregon’s drug policy from a punitive, criminal approach to “a humane, cost-effective, health approach.”
It has been a year since this bill was passed and much to the chagrin of the drug warrior class, Oregon is boasting some very positive numbers.
“A year ago, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs and expand access to health services. Now, because of this measure, there are thousands of people in Oregon that will never have to experience the devastating life-long barriers of having a drug arrest on their record, which disproportionately and unjustly affected Black and Indigenous people due to targeted policing. Because of this measure, there is more than $300 million in funding that did not exist before being funneled into community organizations to provide adequate and culturally competent care that people desperately need,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “And while the devastation of 50 years of cruel and counterproductive policies can’t be erased overnight, by all metrics we hoped to achieve, and what voters asked for, we are going down the right path.”
Instead of spending countless millions locking people in cages for addiction, the state moved to allocate those funds toward programs to help addicts get clean. It costs far less money to treat a drug addict in a health services environment than it does to lock one up for two years. The state also raises money from the sale of marijuana to fund the programs as well.
This savings and marijuana revenue is being allocated to services that will allow addicts to receive the help and treatment they need instead of the barrel of a gun they received before. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, in only a year, 70 organizations in 26 out of Oregon’s 36 counties have already received funding for these services listed below:
- 33 harm reduction and addiction recovery service providers expanded access to treatment services for indigent, uninsured individuals.
- 52 organizations hired peer support specialists — a role that addiction medicine experts have long heralded as essential to one’s recovery journey.
- 32 service providers added recovery, supportive and transitional housing services.
- 30 organizations increased harm reduction services, which include life-saving interventions like overdose prevention; access to naloxone, methadone and buprenorphine; as well as drug education and outreach.
What’s more, by removing criminal penalties for possessing substances deemed illegal by the state, there are approximately 9,000 Oregonians (based on prior arrest data) this year that have or will avoid the devastating life-long consequences of a drug arrest, that can include the loss of employment, educational opportunities, housing, public benefits, child custody and immigration status, according to the DPA.