In an unprecedented move, Oregon is on its way to becoming the first state to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, while also lowering the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor in some drug-related cases.
Two groundbreaking bills were passed by the Oregon legislature this week, and will go to the state’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, for approval. House Bill 3078 reduces drug-related property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It passed in the state House with a vote of 33-26, and in the Senate with a vote of 18-11.
House Bill 2355 seeks to decriminalize at least six hard drugs, as long as the user does not have any prior felonies or more than two prior drug convictions. It passed in the state House with a vote of 36-23, and in the Senate with a vote of 20-9.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) told the Lund Report that he sees the criminalization of drugs as a major public policy failure, because it ignores the fact that addiction to certain drugs changes the physical structure of the brain, and should be treated as a health problem—as opposed to the current system, which labels users as felons, and sentences them to a life of rebounding in and out of the criminal justice system.
“We’ve got to treat people, not put them in prison,” Greenlick said. “It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes. … This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs to be treated this way.”