Americans Voted For Love and Freedom, and It’s Got Absolutely Nothing To Do With Donald Trump or Joe Biden
Oregonians pass Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative with 59% approval
Otherwise known as Ballot Measure 110, Oregon’s newest drug law is at the tip of the spear in the fight back against the War on Drugs. It is the first American state to decriminalize the possession of all drugs. The maximum fine for drug possession has been capped at $100. Those who cannot, or choose not to pay the fine can agree to complete a ‘Health assessment’ at an addiction recovery center. This signifies an end to the profiteering of addiction. Oregonians have voted against the incarceration of innocent civilians who choose to indulge. The people of this state want to encourage people to seek help, instead of punishing them.
What is really amazing about this ballot measure, is that it builds upon the progress already made by previous drug reform measures. An attempt to recriminalize marijuana was rejected by Oregonians in 1997. In 2020, the latest legislation includes the ‘Expansion of access to recovery treatments, housing, and harm reduction services, to be funded through the reallocation of tens of millions of dollars from Oregon’s cannabis tax’. Oregonians stopped locking people up for smoking weed. They turned Marijuana into a legitimate business and then used the money it brought into the state to help people suffering from addiction. It is difficult to overstate just how incredible that is. Truly revolutionary.
According to the Oregon Criminal Justice System, Ballot Measure 110 would ‘Reduce convictions for drug possession by nearly 90%’. The same report predicts that ‘Racial disparities in drug arrests could drop by 95%, and that convictions of Black and Indigenous Oregonians could drop by a staggering 94%’. This is indicative of just how evil the War on Drugs is. The decriminalisation of drugs makes states more prosperous and directly combats racism. What are the other states, and the rest of the world, waiting for?
One person who will not be waiting is Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. She says that Measure 110 was drafted as ‘Model legislation, to be taken up in statehouses and ballot measures nationwide following its success in Oregon’. ‘As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment’.
The science is becoming undeniable. Big Pharma and the private prisons will squirm and obstruct as much as they can, but ultimately the truth will prevail. Not only does drug reform bring financial gains and set people free from the shackles of the legal system; it also opens up opportunities to free people from the shackles of their own minds.
In 2016, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine reported that ‘Treatment with psilocybin under psychologically supported conditions significantly relieved existential anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis’. A 2020 study indicates that the same treatment may well be ‘Effective in the much wider population of patients who suffer from major depressions than previously appreciated’. Across the entire group of participants, 67% showed more than a 50% reduction in depressive symptoms. After 4 weeks of treatment, 54% of participants were considered in remission, i.e. no longer depressed.
The criminalization of drugs like psilocybin is directly obstructing the mental recovery of hundreds of millions of people who suffer from depression worldwide. The drugs available to them are inadequate and they are largely peddled simply because they are enormously profitable to drug companies. In 2017, the global anti-depressant drug market was worth about $14 billion. By 2023, it is expected to reach $16 billion.
The companies who are taking these huge profits are fearful of populist legislation such as Ballot Measure 110. Alan Davis, PhD and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Johns Hopkins says that ‘The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market’.
Depression and addiction are incredibly complicated subjects. There is no one solution. Everybody is different. To get the best results, we need the widest possible range of treatments.
Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001. As a result, HIV infection dropped from 104.2 new cases per million in 2000, to just 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Portugal became safer. Drug use was no longer denied and shunned. Addiction was accepted as a national issue.
Joao Castel-Branco Goulao (Portuguese physician, recovered addict and current national drug coordinator for Portugal) says that ‘There was a point where you could not find a single Portuguese family that wasn’t affected. Every family had their addict or addicts. This was universal in a way that the society felt: ‘We have to do something’.
In 2018 alone, an estimated 10.3 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the United States. In the same year, an average of 128 people died daily from an opioid overdose. I dread to think of the impact that lockdowns have had on people’s mental health and by extension, their addiction struggles.
The War on Drugs is not going to fix these problems. In fact it will make them significantly worse. We need more solutions. We need to have a variety of options for those who are suffering. In the words of Goulao, the trick is to ‘Treat individuals differently.’
‘The secret is for us to be present’.
Being present means being compassionate. It means standing by people, not incarcerating them, and deserting them. We cannot afford to toss people to the system and never think of them again.
Ultimately, only those who want to be saved can be saved. At the same time, people can only truly want to be saved if they believe it is possible. Otherwise they will resign themselves to inebriation and the temporary relief it can bring.
Drug reform such as Ballot Measure 110 gives people belief. It is a message to all those suffering with addiction. It lets people know that we believe in them. We believe in rehabilitation, recovery, and redemption.
Oregon will no longer lock people up for having mental health problems and addiction troubles, They can pay $100 or they can choose treatment.
‘Our objective is not to steer people to treatment — they have to want it’ — Goulao.
Oregonians wanted it. They voted for it. They got it.
Don’t lose faith in democracy. Don’t lose faith in humanity.
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