Oregon defies the Feds in passing law to decriminalize hard drugs like cocaine and heroin
Over the past few years the Federal government’s ‘War on Drugs’ has been losing strength because a number of states have rebelliously voted to legalize marijuana in some capacity. ¬†And while the majority of these laws and referendums have been relegated to either the medicinal and/or recreational use of pot, very few have sought to decriminalize the use of much harder drugs which in some locales have become an epidemic.
That is because on July 6 the state of Oregon passed a law which lowers the punishment for many types of drug related offenses specifically tied to the use of cocaine, heroin, and meth.
H.B. 2355¬†passed both the House and Senate last week and reduces possession of illegal drugs to misdemeanors rather than felonies as long as the person in possession does not have prior drug convictions. According to a¬†press release¬†issued on July 7 by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the bill provides for¬†‚Äúthe reduction of penalties for lower level drug offenders. The bill also reduces the maximum penalty for Class A misdemeanors by one day to avoid mandatory deportation for misdemeanants.‚ÄĚ
Drug related crimes are at the top of the list for the most incarcerated in the U.S.. ¬†And what stands out the most in this consequence of the government’s ideological ‘war on drugs’ is that the majority of those convicted are guilty of victimless crimes.
Oregon had taken a long look at the cost-benefit ratio of prosecuting and imprisoning individuals for low level drug crimes before passing their new bill, and came to the realization that the benefits to public safety were negligible in relation to the amount of money the state was paying to prosecute and convict drug users.
A¬†2007 report¬†from the¬†Oregon Criminal Justice Commission¬†uses this research on prison economics to demonstrate how the public safety returns on incarceration declined as the inmate population increased: A dollar spent on prison returned $1.03 in 2005, as compared with $3.31 in 1994.
The Oregon report also highlighted how the cost-effectiveness of incarceration varies based on the severity of the offense. In 2005, each dollar the state spent to incarcerate a violent offender yielded $4.35 in public safety benefits. The cost of incarcerating drug offenders, however, far exceeded the benefits: every dollar invested in incarcerating drug offenders yielded $0.35 in public safety benefits, meaning that the costs were roughly three times more than the benefits. –¬†Vera
While the use of drugs, especially harder and more dangerous ones such as meth, cocaine, and heroin have increased since the Federal government committed the nation to a ‘war on drugs’, the fact of the matter is that costs of criminalizing them through prohibition has only made things worse for many of the states. ¬†And when you take into account that opioids being distributed ‘legally’ by Big Pharma in hospitals everyday are causing just as much addition problems as street drugs do, then the only logical solution is to decriminalize the penalties for the victimless crimes that drug use creates, and instead focus on the more dangerous crimes that actually provide a benefit to the state when the perpetrators are incarcerated, and to the people who foot the bill for the antiquated system of drug related prosecutions.
Kenneth Schortgen Jr¬†is¬†a writer for¬†The Daily Economist,¬†Secretsofthefed.com,¬†Roguemoney.net, and¬†Viral Liberty, and hosts¬†the popular¬†youtube podcast¬†on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.¬†Ken can also¬†be heard Wednesday afternoons giving an weekly economic report on the¬†Angel Clark radio show.