decriminalize

In an unprecedented move, Oregon is on its way to becoming the first state to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, while also lowering the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor in some drug-related cases.

Two groundbreaking bills were passed by the Oregon legislature this week, and will go to the state’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, for approval. House Bill 3078 reduces drug-related property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It passed in the state House with a vote of 33-26, and in the Senate with a vote of 18-11.

House Bill 2355 seeks to decriminalize at least six hard drugs, as long as the user does not have any prior felonies or more than two prior drug convictions. It passed in the state House with a vote of 36-23, and in the Senate with a vote of 20-9.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) told the Lund Report that he sees the criminalization of drugs as a major public policy failure, because it ignores the fact that addiction to certain drugs changes the physical structure of the brain, and should be treated as a health problem—as opposed to the current system, which labels users as felons, and sentences them to a life of rebounding in and out of the criminal justice system.

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“We’ve got to treat people, not put them in prison,” Greenlick said. “It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes. … This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs to be treated this way.”

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Both bills were supported by Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), the longest-serving African-American woman in Oregon Senate history. During the Senate hearing, she silenced critics by referring to the current War on Drugs as “institutional racism.” The Lund Report noted that in addition to pushing for decriminalization, Winters has been fighting to decrease the prison population since 2011.

“There is empirical evidence that there are certain things that follow race. … We don’t like to look at the disparity in our prison system,” Winters said. “It is institutional racism. … We can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does.”

HR 2355 also seeks to cut down on racial profiling among police. As the Portland Tribune reported, police would be required “to collect data on race and other demographic information during law enforcement stops,” and the Criminal Justice Commission would then “have the responsibility to analyze the data to identify any trends showing officers have singled out people with specific qualities such as the color of their skin.

While law enforcement has worked to derail attempts to reform prison sentencing in the past, HR 3078 includes a provision that tasks the Criminal Justice Commission with providing local jurisdictions with $7 million for diversion programs. The bill would also reduce some mandatory minimum sentences for property crimes, and increase the number of prior convictions necessary for a felony offense.

Rep. Jodi Hack (R-Salem) was one of the few Republicans to support HR 3078, and she told the Lund Report that she has received threats as a result. However, she noted that the opportunity to keep families together, and to send drug users to a diversion program for help, instead of prison, was what anchored her support.

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“We are putting addicts and nonviolent offenders into prison,” Hack said. “We in the U.S. are 5 percent of the world’s population, but 20 percent of the prison population.”

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in 1973, before becoming one of the first states to legalize it for medicinal use in 1998, and then finally legalizing recreational use in 2015. This raises the question—if Oregon decriminalizes small amounts of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, will other states follow suit?

The push for ending the failed “War on Drugs” appears to be gaining traction, as the most popular medical journal in the United Kingdom, the British Medical Journal, argued in November 2016 that “laws against drug use have harmed people across the world, while stressing that drug addiction should be viewed as a health problem and police involvement must end.”

As The Free Thought Project reported last week, the United Nations is now calling for the worldwide decriminalization of drug use and possession. A statement from the World Health Organization called for “ending discrimination in health care settings,” as well as various “marginalized and stigmatized populations.”

An example of the power of decriminalization can be found in Portugal, a country that decriminalized all drugs in 2001. As a result, drugs usage rates have declined, and there are now approximately three drug overdose deaths for every 1 million citizens.

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Rachel Blevins is a Texas-based journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • Damiana

    House Bill 2355 seeks to decriminalize at least six hard drugs, as long as the user does not have any prior felonies or more than two prior drug convictions.

    So, basically they’re just decriminalizing drugs for certain people. If the State has already ruined your life with their little drug war, then FUCK YOU! Something tells me they’ll also find other ways to make poor and/or non-white people completely exempt from this decriminalization.

    For now, this looks less like an attempt to end the Drug War and more a way to let “good people” off the hook while continuing to use addiction as a way to abuse and oppress the “undesirables.” Possession of drugs is either legal or it’s not – FUCK this “well, if you meet certain criteria…”

    • I think you just made an excellent observation! I don’t think that’s the intent of those that want to end the “war on drugs”, but that’s exactly what the bastards that rule the current drug war are going to use to maintain their agenda. Decriminalization is the right step, but what you’re saying is exactly the next battle. We would need to not play nice about it though. We need to stop posting comments online and physically knock on their doors and sit outside their offices. I think the government loves the internet because it makes us feel like we’re doing something when we post. But we’re not, and they don’t have to do anything in response. They don’t feel any pressure by our posts. We used to march, picket, sit down on their steps, make them push their way past us to get to their cars, offices, homes, etc.

      oops, I started ranting. My point was… You’re right… We can’t expect those in power are just going to say, “aww shucks, they got us.” They’re going take advantage of any loopholes. They’re going to insert the loopholes themselves as a condition of their cooperation. We just need to fight harder than them.

  • truthseeker53

    The one thing dimmercraps got right.

  • Steve Stojanovich

    time to leave America! You are all welcome here in Canada!

  • Taco Bell

    You’re not locking them up but you’re also not giving them the drugs so…. won’t crime increase to get money to buy?

    • @nsmartinworld

      Decrim has worked well in Portugal.

      • amberva

        How so? Is Portugal gaining influence with advanced sciences, education or culture? What is the definition of success? That less people are in jail?! I would think that the economic well being of a creative people would more be the model. The reason the drug war has failed is that the biggest criminals, the bankers who launder the wholesale slaughter of people’s minds with narcotics, in a depraved, downward economy, get away with a slap on the wrist, albeit a somewhat big slap, but HSBC LAUNDEREED 7 billion dollars of the narcotics to stupefy and dumb down your children a la the British Intelligence agent George Orwell’s “prophecy”, and what did they pay? Who went to jail?! I will answer that, `1 billion in fines in the US under Obama and no one was even personally, criminally charged as if oops, that all happened by itself. Btw, Comey and what’s his name the prosecutor in charge of trying to impeach Trump along with the other whack jobs, were the HSBC’s legal counsel at that time. What the hell people, is the minds of the children of no interest to anyone here in the West? Have we all gone insane?

  • Cousin Eddy

    The ONLY reason politicians started to “humanize” people hooked on opioids was b/c it hit the white communities like a ton of bricks. The MIC noticed the different shades evolving in the prison population & realized the tragic mistake. All of a sudden – they had a “Come to Jesus” moment. WF hypocrites.

    • @nsmartinworld

      Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. We need to quickly move to expand this.

  • patriot156

    While I hate Brown for murdering Lavoy Finicum I do support this, so hope she signs this into law.
    Anything that may help against racial Profiling and decriminalize possession are steps in the right direction.
    I also like the heart in not incarcerating people with kids.

  • @nsmartinworld

    Is this true? Too good to be true if just a first step.

  • Erik Hertwig

    The first state to accomplish it is the state that will make the tax money off the sales.

    • You’re right if they made the sale of it legal. The difference is between decriminalization and legalization. This is entirely different than the legal cannabis movement, which they certainly are raking in the tax benefits from – as you correctly stated. But this is strictly the decriminalization of drugs. Meaning drug users and addicts won’t go to jail for their addiction and possession. Dealers will still be charged and imprisoned as the drugs themselves and the sale of them still won’t be legal.

      The specifics of the laws will need to go through years of trial and revision until the loopholes and bugs are worked out. But I think this is the path forward. The war on drugs is a farce. I don’t know if calling it a mental disorder is right. I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just saying i don’t know. And that’s an important discussion and will need to be clearly defined for medical treatment, welfare benefits, and insurance coverage. It would have an ENORMOUS impact on the healthcare system. We may not be able to define it as a mental disorder simply because the healthcare system wouldn’t be able to handle it. But either way, decriminalization is that path forward in my humble opinion.

      • DaveBeaulieu

        Our leaders are in direct violation of the Bill of Rights! There is no provision for their criminal behavior in the law of the land. They have been knowingly and intelligently usurping the Constitution by the very act of this failed drug war! The greatest hypocrisy is that the CIA aka our government has become the BIGGEST drug dealer on the planet, and NO ONE has answered for that! They are currently shoveling the Afghani heroin into the US by the ton, while imprisoning the citizenry for paltry amounts! It is way past time to end this travesty!

  • Ed

    Now you have me worried! The War on Drugs was brought on to curb Cannabis use. Once in awhile a little Cocaine & Heroin got mixed in with the war. Cocaine & Heroin are the Rich people’s drugs and they funded the WAR. Daily we see vehicle crashes we attribute to alcohol but sure enough C & H may also be involved but not reported. Remember these are rich people getting caught!

  • DaveBeaulieu

    Why stop at the fact that someone may be a “drug” felon? ALL drug arrests are UNCONSTITUTIONAL to start with! They should all be erased from the record as in California with the weed offenses.