A new bill passed recently by the Oregon legislature would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin in the state. The bill is awaiting Governor Kate Brown’s nod who is keen on signing it once it undergoes quotidian legal review.
The passing of the bill, which is termed as “an important step towards creating a more equitable justice system to better serve all Oregonians,” by Gov. Brown, would make drug possession a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
The proposed law would ensure that those struggling with addiction issues get medical treatment and not jail term. Supporters of the bill also hope that it would address drug policies, which were earlier excessively lopsided and biased against people of color.
According to the Associated Press, a 2015 Oregon Criminal Justice Commission study had stated that more Afro-Americans suffered from existing drug laws in the state. It said that colored people faced felony charges of drug possession more than twice the rate as whites. However, the national data does not say the same version, it projects similar drug use rate across all races.
Quoting Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, the Statesman Journal said, “Felony sentences for small, user quantity amounts often carry heavy consequences including barriers to housing and employment which have a disparate impact on minority communities.”
The most beneficial effect of the bill would be the expansion of treatment accessibility, said Aaron Knott, legislative director for Oregon’s Office of the Attorney General. “So if you crossed the county line with a small amount of heroin, in one county you could be looking at a felony,” Knott told the Washington Post. “In another county, you could be looking at a misdemeanor with pretty good access to treatment. We had a feeling this was unjust because the outcome is largely due to the county’s resources.”
Although there are provisions in certain counties in Oregon where programs allow convicts with low-level drug offenses to receive treatment rather than a jail sentence, they are primarily in wealthier counties. This bill would bridge this gap and make treatment available even in low-income communities.
Therefore, those who find themselves caught with small amounts of cocaine, meth or heroin can expect to go scot-free and receive treatment procedures. The bill is soon going to reduce charges for possession of small amounts of drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin for Oregonians, which will be a reprieve for them, and replacing them with adequate treatment programs. In fact, this should be the ideal solution to deal with drug problems. According to the bill, police officers need to record demographic information like age, race and sex of any person stopped during regular pedestrian and traffic stops.
Lack of exposure to treatment programs is mainly responsible for overdoses. Authorities need to understand that incarceration of people dependent on drugs will not help in combating the opioid crisis. It will only worsen the situation. People need to be made aware of the harmful effects of drug misuse and abuse and help them with treatment when needed.
Addiction is a malady, which needs to be tackled at the earliest. When treatment is deferred, symptoms can exacerbate. Hence, if you have a loved one grappling with an addiction, reach out for immediate help. Call at our 24/7 drug addiction help online or alcohol helpline number at 855-441-4405 for a quick response. With timely treatment, one can gain long-term recovery and lead an addiction-free life. Any delay can spiral the situation out of hand.