Decriminalization of Drugs Causes Controversy

The debate whether marijuana and other drugs should be criminalized or decriminalized has brought a ton of controversy across the country. With the hope of federal legalization and decriminalization of marijuana especially, millions of people are looking forward to this revolution of drugs. A whopping 70 percent of Americans said yes to supporting the decriminalization of marijuana. Of that 70 percent, 11 percent said yes to legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis. Democratic presidential candidate Joseph “Joe” Biden reiterated in the first presidential debate that he supports decriminalizing marijuana and believes people should not be incarcerated for drug possession but should instead be forced into treatment. 

“I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use. They should be going into mandatory rehabilitation,” Biden said. “We should be building rehab centers to have these people housed. We should decriminalize marijuana. Wipe out the record so you can actually say, in honesty, ‘have you ever been arrested for anything?’ You can say ‘no’ because we’re going to pass a law saying there is no background you have to reveal relative to the use of marijuana,” Bided stated during his discussion at Town Hall on October 8th. He also discussed steps that were taken to resolve racial disparities in sentencing for certain offenses. 

Earlier in the first presidential debate held on September 29th, Biden claimed that “drug abuse doesn’t cause mental illness, mental illness causes drug abuse—the failure to get hold of people and deal with their anxieties.” Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris have repeatedly drawn attention to their decriminalization proposal. “In addition to decriminalizing possession and expunging prior records, Biden also backs modest federal rescheduling, legalizing medical cannabis and letting states set their own laws.” says Kyle Jaeger. While millions of Americans support this ideology, there are some who think this is another decision that will add to America being a horrible country. An example of this is Oregon. As of Thursday, November 4 ,2020, Oregon has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and methamphetamines. Of course social media reported the news and received tons of mixed responses about this decision.

Just by reading the top comments on the post, you can see that most people are for the law. To reiterate, the comment explains how decriminalizing isn’t the same as legalizing. When a drug is legalized, you will not be punished for possessing the drug or using the drug where and when permitted. Marijuana has been legal in Oregon since 2015. Just recently, they decriminalized hard drugs, but did not legalize it. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, drug legalization removes all penalties for the possession and personal use of a drug. Rules are typically put in order to manage where and how the drug can be produced, sold, and consumed. Criminal or civil penalties may apply if production, sale or consumption occur outside of those regulations. On the other hand, decriminalization is when a drug is no longer a criminal charge while penalties still apply for the use and possession of the drug(s). Decriminalization is not legalization. If drug possession and personal use are decriminalized, it is still illegal to possess and use drugs. 

In Oregon, some punishments include a fine(s) of $100 and you must enter rehabilitation. The fine(s) can be waived if the individual receiving them is checked into a recovery center. With the measure’s passage, Oregon will be the first state to remove criminal penalties — currently classified as misdemeanors — for the possession of small quantities of the listed drugs by both adults and juveniles. 

The following are the substances and the possession amounts of each that would result in fines for both adults and juveniles:

  • Heroin (1 gram or less).
  • Cocaine (2 grams or less).
  • Methamphetamine (2 grams or less).
  • MDMA/ecstasy (less than 1 gram or five pills).
  • LSD (less than 40 user units).
  • Psilocybin (less than 12 grams).
  • Methadone (less than 40 user units).
  • Oxycodone (less than 40 pills, tablets or capsules).

Supporters of this measure say that drug addiction is currently treated as a crime, when it should be treated as a health disorder. Eliminating punishments for nonviolent drug offenses and having better access to recovery services, will give individuals a better chance of getting their lives back on track. As stated in the screenshot of the Instagram post, “People shouldn’t be thrown in jail and have their lives ruined forever because of drug possession.”

Opponents say that the measure is just too far and it would support drug use and lead to more people using illegal substances, especially the youth. They also argue that it could result in additional overdose deaths. There were some users who commented under the Oregon post who said “addicts do not want help”. She mentioned how close family and friends who are addicts refuse to take care of their children and seek help.

With much controversy surrounding Measure 110, states can make their own rules, measures, and/or laws on decriminalizing drugs. For Florida to pass, they would have to have a majority of Florida votes for the decriminalization of drugs. Seeing how the state continues to deny the legalization of marijuana – one of the safest and most beneficial recreational drugs to use- I don’t see Florida decriminalizing drugs, but hopefully my assumption is wrong. 

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