Making public health part of drug policy

Monte Levine, Bremerton
| Kitsap Sun

This past election Oregon’s Measure 110 passed, decriminalizing all drugs. People in possession of small amounts will be given a choice of paying a fine or getting a drug evaluation and entering treatment if needed. Tax money from the legal sale of cannabis will be dedicated to paying for much needed treatment.

Portugal initiated a decriminalization program in 2001 with surprising results, a substantial decrease in the use of all drugs, addiction and overdose deaths. Decriminalization is a Public Health model for our nation’s drug policy rather than one that is based in Criminalization.

Our current paradigm affects communities of color and poverty considerably more than others in our society. Money spent on prosecutions and incarceration will substantially decrease, allowing more resources to go into programs that address the root causes of substance abuse in our state and lowering the incidence of overdose deaths.

We are making strides in the distribution of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that reverses overdose and decreases deaths. The pandemic has increased overdoses throughout the country, including in our county. Kitsap was the first county in Washington to have Naloxone available, now for over 15 years. No matter how much is distributed, deaths will continue to occur because drug use is a hidden behavior and one cannot use Naloxone on one’s self. Besides, more people in our state die from stimulant overdoses than opioid ones.

We need to contact our legislators and ask that they examine how we can move towards a public health model of drug policy. With decriminalization more people will get treatment.

Monte Levine, Bremerton

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