Oregon Drug Legalization Predictably Backfires
Now the state’s enlightened residents are left picking up the pieces.
Over the years, the morally relativistic point presented about illicit drugs was that part of the problem with them was that they were illegal in the first place. If drugs were legal, this reasoning went, fewer people would be tempted to use them because the lure of rebellion attached to them would be taken away.
The fallacy in that sort of thinking is writ large; and as a culture, we are paying for that sort of illogic with increasingly bad policies spearheaded by the Left. It spills out into other talking points as well, particularly regarding incarceration — i.e., arresting people for drug possession is apparently racist. Possession is a common charge against criminals, and sometimes it’s the only charge that can be brought even when there are bigger suspected crimes at play.
Enter the state of Oregon, which three years ago decriminalized all drugs. Proponents hoped to encourage drug addicts to take advantage of state-funded rehab programs and to get clean. They aimed for Oregon to be the example for other states to follow.
That meant no more arrests for possession. People could use meth and fentanyl without fear of being busted. The worst that can happen to addicts is they get a ticket and have to pay a $100 fine. But if they call the hotline given to them by the police officer who issued the citation and get help, they don’t even have to pay the fine.
It’s no surprise that Oregon’s social experiment is going badly. Just like in major cities rife with drug use, addicts sprawled on the sidewalks are disrupting business, feces litter walkways and streets, and people have been allowed to become zombies, which is devastating to families and communities.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Some 6,000 tickets have been issued for drug possession since decriminalization went into effect in 2021, but just 92 people have called and completed assessments needed to connect them to services, according to the nonprofit that operates the helpline.” That’s a success rate of 1.5%. In other words, a complete and utter failure.
On the next ballot, Oregon residents are looking to re-criminalize hard drugs, but to have lasting success, they still need to address the incentive structure. Jail time wasn’t stopping users. Neither was free help. What’s left to try?
How do you help someone who doesn’t want help? Well, perhaps along with criminal consequences, involuntary rehab might be the next step. People who are strung out and reliant on drugs aren’t exactly free or able to make decisions that are in their best interest. Addicts are slaves to their drug of choice. Many do not have the willpower to take on the beast of withdrawal or to get clean and sober without a push or a strong support system. On the flip side, putting someone through involuntary rehab may not have the lasting effects of voluntary rehab because the person didn’t choose that path himself.
Another course of action is confiscating the drugs. This, however, is not a realistic solution either. As long as drugs are big business and are being allowed to flood over the southern border by our feckless leadership, there is no real way to stem the flow.
Criminalizing hard drugs is a good step in the right direction, but this is a battle that will need to be fought on many fronts with the understanding that many of the people under the influence of drugs aren’t in a position to help themselves. Oregon is learning this lesson the hard way.
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