The state of Oregon is known for being a leader in drug legalization and drug policy reform. They were the first to legalize the use of marijuana and now they are one of the first states to pass a bill that decriminalizes possession of other narcotics and the punishment that comes along with it. The bill reclassifies possession of several drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor, reduces the punishments, and expands access to drug treatment for people without prior felonies or convictions for drug possession. This is an effort to keep minor drug offenders out of state prisons and into facilities where they can receive help for their addiction instead of feeding into it. The bill is one step closer to fixing the problem at the source rather than continue the trend of unnecessary mass incarceration and cycling of people in and out of the criminal justice system.
State Senator Jackie Winters (R), co-chair of the Public Safety Committee and a supporter of the bill commented on the matter: “We are trying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds. We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.”
The abusing of substances it is a mental health problem which has been duly noted and addressed by policy makers. Addiction is considered to be a disease so it must be treated as so. We can only hope that other states will follow the example of Oregon and others who have taken the first steps in stopping the cycle.