I’m excited. We in Oregon can make history in this election by passing Ballot Measure 110. The Drug Addiction and Recovery Act acknowledges that addiction is, first and foremost, a challenge to public health, not public safety, and establishes the mechanisms to meet that challenge. It decriminalizes simple possession of all hitherto prohibited drugs and dedicates most of the proceeds from the state marijuana tax to expand greatly programs of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
Measure 110 doesn’t declare that society has no interest in what its members inhale, ingest and inject. Users of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc. can still be fined $100 per offense. But the law won’t jail them or burden them with a criminal record, which abets, not curtails, their self-destructive behavior. And it will waive their fines if they enter rehab.
I’ve used this column several times to condemn our nation’s so-called war on drugs. It has succeeded only as a war on people of color, especially black males, which was its primary goal. Is it too cynical to attribute the shift to a public health paradigm to the recent scourge of opioid addiction among working-class white people? Be that as it may, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, which issues Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements about proposed legislation, concluded that passage of Measure 110 would eliminate nearly all such disparities in drug arrests and convictions.