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The Benefits of Drug Decriminalization Laws

Is the war on drugs working? Some legislators in the U.S. state of Oregon apparently don’t believe that it has. They’re promoting an addiction-fighting idea that is controversial, to say the least.

The idea? Decriminalizing small amounts of drugs. Drugs that aren’t marijuana. We’ve seen several U.S. states (and the district of Columbia and other nations, such as Canada) legalize the use of marijuana for medical and even recreational purposes.

Oregon is taking this one step further. In July, 2017, it passed legislation that would make the possession of small amounts of six drugs legal. Those six drugs are LSD, psilocybin or psilocin, methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin. If people possess small amounts of these substances, they won’t face criminal penalties unless they have prior felony convictions or drug-related convictions. Even if they do face penalties, they might be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The state of Oregon’s approach is similar to the nation of Portugal’s approach. In 2001, the nation decriminalized small amounts of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, meth, and marijuana. Since these laws passed, more people in the country have sought treatment for their drug use.

Legislators in Oregon are hoping decriminalization will do the same for residents of their state. They also hope that this practice will lead to less discrimination.

Oregon Republican state senator Jackie Winters said that the justice system punishes and imprisons minorities at disproportionally higher numbers for drug crimes. Oregon’s new drug legalization would address such tendencies, practices Winters calls “institutional racism.

In theory, then, such legislation would lighten the burden on the prisons and the justice system. It could free money currently used for police departments, courts, and prisons and could require fewer people to work in such fields.

If people would no longer have felonies on their records, it could help them tremendously in their day-to-day lives. Currently, even though people may have served time in prison for their crimes and have lived lives as model citizens since, they still might have trouble finding jobs and homes because of drug-related felonies in their distant pasts.

Oregon’s drug legislation could thus salvage lives. Maybe it will encourage such drug addiction-fighting legislation in other states.