The 2020 General Election has been one for the history books, and it has to do with more than just who the next president will be. Oregon has made history in passing a bill that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of cocaine and heroin. In any other part of the U.S., possession of even the smallest amounts of one of these substances automatically means facing criminal charges. By decriminalizing these drugs, now individuals can be directed to a state treatment facility for addiction and substance abuse as opposed to facing jail time. 

Why Decriminalization?

Prisons are formally called “correctional facilities” because ideally, they would be an environment to help rehabilitate convicted felons and turn them into “productive members of society.” Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Most prisons are underfunded and lacking the proper supplies, training, and resources to help treat someone with a substance use disorder. Instead of helping, prison can set up a drug offender to face a lifetime of consequences, and increase risk factors for further infractions. 

By sending misdemeanor drug offenders to treatment as opposed to prison, these people are given a better opportunity at overcoming addiction and building a better life. They get a chance to work with experienced treatment professionals, get access to evidence-based therapies, and are able to work with behavioral therapists to develop tools for long-term recovery. Many aspects of addiction are tied to mental health, which is why this type of treatment is critical to long term sobriety and relapse prevention.

The Future of Drug Crimes

Drug and alcohol-related crimes currently account for the largest number of arrests across the country, so this change could ultimately have a large implication for our country’s future. Although this legislation is only passed in Oregon, it serves as an opening to see how this type of change may impact communities and individuals; paving the way for other states to follow suit.