Oregon voted to decriminalize hard drugs, but was that the right choice?

Some states headed to the polls to vote on more than candidates

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The state of Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs after citizens voted to approve the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act on Nov. 3.

The Associated Press reports Oregon will be the first state to decriminalize hard drugs after voters approved the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act.

I’ll be honest, when I first read the headline, I immediately began wondering what the people of Oregon are thinking. I was really shocked legislation like this was even on the ballot.

Despite my shock, I started doing a little research on the measure. While I’m still not convinced it’s a great idea, I will say the justification for passing the law is valid and the law isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Long story short, the bill would reform Oregon’s drug policy so, instead of treating drug users as criminals, the state would take a healthcare approach and offer them addiction services which would be funded by marijuana tax revenue.

I think it is important to note though, the bill would only apply to possession of small amounts of hard drugs. Other drug related crimes such as dealing, manufacturing and driving under the influence are still criminal offenses.

“People suffering from addiction are more effectively treated with health care services than with criminal punishments,” reads the bill.

I don’t disagree with this statement, but I don’t fully agree either. 

I think this is a helpful approach for some people, but might not work for other drug users. It really depends on the circumstances. 

Critics of the measure say the new policy would just encourage hard drug use and it would be dangerous to implement.

While this might be true, there is no way to know for sure until it is actually put into practice. 

A few countries in Europe have drug policies like this and they have seen little to none of the negative effects according to multiple European-based studies on the matter.

While Europe doesn’t seem to have many problems with this policy in place, it is impossible to know if it is the right thing for Oregon to implement.

On one hand, I understand the argument in favor of a bill like the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. On the other hand, we’ve never seen a law like this passed in the United States and are relying on Europe’s data to determine its effectiveness.

Europe is not the United States — which makes me nervous about this bill. We don’t know what could happen if it is implemented.

I am weary of this bill, but in order to really know its effects I think Oregon could try it and be the guinea pig for the rest of the country just to test it out.

How do we know if this policy works if we don’t try it?

My gut tells me this bill might look better on paper than in practice, but only time will tell. If the citizens of Oregon voted for it, they obviously don’t think it’s a bad idea. If the voters want it, then so be it.

Who knows, maybe it’ll work great and I’ll be surprised. This bill could be the first step toward national drug reform, which is important given the drug problems we have in this country. For that, I am hopeful. 

Fanetti can be reached at [email protected].