But three years later, with rising overdoses and delays in treatment funding, even some of the measure’s supporters now believe that the policy needs to be changed. In a nonpartisan statewide poll earlier this year, more than 60 percent of respondents blamed Measure 110 for making drug addiction, homelessness, and crime worse. A majority, including a majority of Democrats, said they supported bringing back criminal penalties for drug possession.
My dad and I used to debate the decriminalization of drugs. He was a staunch advocate of individual liberty and favored decriminalization. I was much more reticent. We both supported the decriminalization of marijuana, and I still do. But I feared the effects of harder drugs on individuals and society generally. I voted against Measure 110, Oregon’s law that decriminalized virtually all drugs for personal use in small amounts.
It was not an easy vote. I, too, am a strong believer in and advocate for individual liberty.
The argument I found persuasive is this: Individual liberty rests on a person’s ability to choose for themselves. Drugs, and especially the addiction that often follows, rob an individual of that ability to choose. In the same way that we as a society do not let people sell themselves into slavery, inherent rights like individual freedom may not be cast aside which is what drug addiction causes. (Rights of course may remain unexercised, but that’s not the same thing as the ability to exercise the right being extinguished.)
…The consequences of Measure 110’s shortcomings have fallen most heavily on Oregon’s drug users. In the two years after the law took effect, the number of annual overdoses in the state rose by 61 percent, compared with a 13 percent increase nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In neighboring Idaho and California, where drug possession remains subject to prosecution, the rate of increase was significantly lower than Oregon’s.
Measure 110 is a failure. There is no need to wait longer to call it such.