Legislators in Oregon passed a bill Thursday to decriminalize possession of small quantities of hardcore drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy. In defending the bill, legislators then claimed that laws forbidding the possession of hardcore narcotics are racist.
“There is empirical evidence that there are certain things that follow race,” Sen. Jackie Winters said during a hearing, according to The Lund Report, a news portal that focuses on Oregon-related health care issues. “We don’t like to look at the disparity in our prison system. It is institutional racism. We can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does.”
From Conservative Tribune
State Rep. Tawna Sanchez added that Native Americans and blacks are significantly more likely to be arrested for drug possession than the average Oregon resident.
So because certain minorities are caught carrying or using hardcore drugs more often than others, it’s racist to ban the possession of hardcore drugs?
If signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, H.B. 2355 would specifically decriminalize possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy “so long as an offender does not have any prior felonies or more than two prior drug convictions,” according to The Lund Report.
Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union vociferously supports this bill.
“Harsh drug sentences have damaged families and ruined lives,” the organization wrote in a statement. “A felony conviction for small-scale drug possession, can prevent people from getting housing, a job or a student loan.The current approach is also unfair. People of color possess drugs at the same rates as everyone else but are more much likely to be arrested.”
A related bill, H.B. 3078, would likewise decriminalize drug-related property crimes by turning them into misdemeanors instead of felonies.
While the ACLU makes valid points about one drug-related felony conviction ruining lives, one wonders whether decriminalization is necessarily the best option. In fact, some might even argue that what legislators in Oregon are attempting to do is make it easier than ever before for criminals to bypass the system and continue with their lawless ways.