[An] Oregon [drug decriminalization] model
Decriminalizing all drugs had long been considered a drug policy pipe dream in America, where the story of the drug war is one of perpetual escalation… Oregon’s vote to decriminalize all drugs, making it the first state in the nation to do so, marks a historic turning point in that struggle.
While criminalization has clearly not served the state of Oregon – now the state faces the daunting task of overcoming structural hurdles to change and proving that treating drug use outside the criminal justice system can bring results. “What we’re doing is totally divorcing the funding stream for treatment and health services from the criminal-legal system,” Lindsay LaSalle, attorney and policy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said. “I think it’s so important because there are so many subconscious levels of coercion that happen as a result of all the money being funneled through the criminal-legal system.” The shift in priorities will result in Oregon’s biggest public investment in health and social services to treat drug use – a unique opportunity to overhaul a broken health care system and envision a new approach that no longer hinges on ultimatums and coercion. Oregon [currently] spends roughly $235 million per year on treatment and prevention services that few people can access, and among those who do, it’s largely unclear whether they’re actually benefiting in any meaningful way… What’s happening in Oregon is “the Portugal model on a state level,” McVay said. “We’ve seen it work successfully in another country for twenty years. Treating people who use drugs as others, stigmatized and brutalized, is what causes the real drug problems. We’re getting people to understand that.”