In 2020, Oregon voters passed the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act in 2020 which decriminalized possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs.
So how is it going?
Oregon still has among the highest addiction rates in the country. Fatal overdoses have increased almost 20% over the previous year, with over a thousand dead. Of 16,000 people who were picked up in the first year of decriminalization, only 0.85% entered treatment. But around 60% of them accepted free needles.
Steve Allen, behavioral health director, said that they needed millions more and more time for the “bold and transformative approach.” Unfortunately, experts like addiction researcher, professor at Stanford University, and former senior adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Keith Humphreys said, “If there is no formal or informal pressure on addicted people to seek treatment and recovery and thereby stop using drugs, we should expect continuing high rates of drug use, addiction and attendant harm,”
The key piece that seems to be missing is enforcement. Places like Europe that decriminalized drugs also heavily enforce requiring addicts get into treatment programs, shut down drug dens, and still put people in jail if they don’t seek help. Even with all of that, the approach also still has some conflicting results.
It seems like Oregon’s picked the worst of the policies – legalization with no enforcement and no consequences. Unfortunately, the real losers are the thousands of addicts that are now dead. Sadly, it seems that our politicians are more interested in making shows of public policy instead of actually saving lives.