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Oregon law that decriminalizes all drugs, offers rehab goes into effect

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2/1/2021 David Matthews
a close up of food: Psilocybin Mushrooms © Shutterstock Psilocybin Mushrooms

A new Oregon law that decriminalizes most drugs and offers rehab instead of jail time or prison sentences went into effect Monday.

Under the new law, dubbed Measure 110, the state will use parts of the revenue it gains from recreational cannabis sales to open new addiction treatment centers. Further, rather than making possession of small amounts of “hard” drugs, like LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, methadone, oxycodone and MDMA, a criminal offense, people are instead fined $100. The fine can be waived if the person agrees to seek treatment. Possession of larger amounts has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, as well.

The state also thinks the state will soon start seeing savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating and prosecuting people for drug offenses.

“Today, the first domino of our cruel and inhumane war on drugs has fallen — setting off what we expect to be a cascade of other efforts centering health over criminalization,” Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “For the first time in at least half a century, one place in the United States — Oregon — will show us that we can give people help without punishing them. This law is meant to protect people against persecution, harassment and criminalization at the hands of the state for using drugs and instead given access to the supports they need.”

According to a study from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, the measure will likely quickly reduce racial and ethnic disparities in drug arrests and convictions, which overwhelmingly affect people of color. The state expects about 3,700 fewer residents per year will be convicted of felony or misdemeanor possession of controlled substances.

The law, passed on similar measures implemented in several European countries, passed with 58.5 approval in the November elections. Portugal, for example, decriminalized “hard” drugs in 2000 and saw no surge in drug use. In fact, drug deaths declined sharply while the number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20% between 2001 and 2008 before stabilizing.

The new law is the first of its kind in the U.S., but policy experts and criminal justice reform advocates believe other states will enact similar laws in the future.

With News Wire Services

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