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Slippery slope? Citing race, crime, addiction disease, Oregon moves to decriminalize hard drugs

Posted by   /  July 11, 2017  /  No Comments

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By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer

regon, which first approved physician-assisted suicide and decriminalization of marijuana, continues on its path as the nation’s most liberal state with a move to decriminalize six controlled drugs including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and the so-called “date drug” ecstasy. The first of the two bills now headed to the governor’s desk decriminalizes possession of the drugs as long as the offender has neither a felony nor more than two prior drug convictions on record. The second, bill reduces drug-related property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

News accounts report Republican State Sen. Jackie Winters silenced critics of the bills with an impassioned speech stating the war on drugs amounts to “institutional racism” because minorities are more frequently charged with drug crimes than whites.

“We don’t like to look at the disparity in our prison system,” Winters said during a hearing, as reported by MintPress News. “It is institutional racism. We can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does.”

Treatment, not prison time

“It would be like putting them in the state penitentiary for having diabetes,” Democratic Rep. Mitch Greenlick told the Lund Report. “This is a chronic brain disorder and it needs to be treated this way.”

The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police adopted the legislation as a “more thoughtful approach.”

The two groups released a statement Monday saying they want to lighten what they see as the heavy hand of Oregon law by supporting changes that would make drug possession a misdemeanor. They support the change only in cases when someone possesses “user amounts” of drugs and commits no other crime.

The announcement has sparked mixed reactions from district attorneys, some who say that while the goal of eliminating unfair treatment is important, revising drug laws is complicated, reports The Oregonian.

“There are many possible repercussions from a reduction of crimes involving heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine that must be carefully considered, particularly in light of the fact that Oregon is currently experiencing an epidemic in heroin and methamphetamine use,” the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office said in a response. “As only one example, it is worth considering whether or not such a policy would make Oregon a haven for users of these drugs who would come from other parts of the country.”

Race

The main bill also imposes guidelines and requirements to reduce government profiling based on an “individual’s real or perceived age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, homelessness or disability, unless the agency or officer is acting on a suspect description or information related to an identified or suspected violation of a provision of law.”

Arizona

Meanwhile, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey continues the state’s campaign against opioid abuse, with a recent report stating there were 191 opioid overdoses and 15 deaths in June.

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