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The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Oregon became the first state in the United States to decriminalize the possession of all drugs on Nov. Possessing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs for personal use is no longer a criminal offense in Oregon. Those drugs are still against the law, as is selling them.
But possession is now a civil — not criminal — violation that may result in a fine or court-ordered therapy, not jail.
Marijuana, which Oregon legalized inremains fully legal. There are three main arguments for this major drug policy reform. The ostensible rationale for harshly punishing drug users is to deter drug use. But decades of research — including our own on marijuana and drugs generally — has found the deterrent effect of strict criminal punishment to be smallif it exists at all.
This is especially true among young people, who are the majority of drug users. This is partly due to the nature of addiction, and also because there are simply limits to how much punishment can deter crime. As a result, the U. Roughly 1 in 5 incarcerated people in the United States is in for a drug offense. Criminologists find that other consequences of problematic drug use — such as harm to health, reduced quality of life and strained personal relationships — are more effective deterrents than criminal sanctions.
Because criminalizing drugs does not really prevent drug use, decriminalizing does not really increase it. Portugal, which decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in in response to high illicit drug use, has much lower rates of drug use than the European average. Use of cocaine among young adults age 15 to 34, for example, is 0. Oregon will now divert some the money ly used on drug enforcement to pay for about a dozen new drug prevention and treatment centers statewide, which has been found to be a ificantly more cost-effective strategy.
Not everyone who uses drugs needs treatment. Decriminalization makes help accessible to those who do need it — and keeps both those users and recreational users out of jail. Another aim of decriminalization is to mitigate the ificant racial and ethnic disparities All drugs legal with drug enforcement. Illegal drug use is roughly comparable across race in the U. But people of color are ificantly more likely to be searchedarrested and imprisoned for a drug-related offense.
Drug crimes can incur long prison sentences. Discretion in drug enforcement and sentencing means prohibition is among the leading causes of incarceration of people of color in the United States — All drugs legal injustice many Americans on both sides of the aisle increasingly recognize.
Freed up from policing drug use, departments may redirect their resources toward crime prevention and solving violent crimes like homicide and robberywhich are time-consuming to investigate. One common concern among Oregonians who voted against decriminalization was that lessening criminal penalties would endanger children.
But U. In fact, marijuana consumption among teens — though not among college-aged Americans — actually declined in some states with legal marijuana.
This may be because legal, regulated marijuana is more difficult for minors to get than black-market drugs. Research also shows that for some people, particularly the young, banning a behavior makes it more alluring. So defining drugs as a health concern rather than a crime could actually make them less appealing to young Oregonians. People came from across the country to inject heroin in public, leaving discarded needles on the ground.
The local government shut down Platzspitz Park. But rather than chase off or arrest those who frequented it, it began offering methadone and prescription heroin to help people with opioid use disorder. Public injection, HIV rates and overdoses — which had all become a problem in Zurich — plummeted. Certain parts of Oregon already have higher rates of public drug consumption, namely Portland and Eugene. These places should benefit from the expansion of methadone programs and other medication-assisted treatment, which is endorsed by the American Medical Association. If neighboring Washington state decriminalizes drugswhich it is considering, the chances of drug tourism would drop further.
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There are risks with any major policy change. The question is whether the new policy in a net benefit. In Portugal, full decriminalization has proven more humane and effective than criminalization. HIV infection rates among injection drug users also dropped massively since These policies show that problem drug use is a public health challenge to be managed, not a war that can be won.
Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. According to Oregon law, possessing a small amount of drugs for personal consumption is now a civil — rather than criminal — offense. Peter Dazeley via Getty.All drugs legal
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Oregon 1st state to decriminalize possession of hard drugs