It's "the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
- Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
- The state also legalized the therapeutic use and sale of psilocybin mushrooms.
- As the laws go into effect, other U.S. states will be watching to see how the experiment plays out, influencing future votes across the country.
Arrest and incarceration rates<p>Reduced arrest and incarceration rates for drug possession are likely to be the most obvious changes. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission <a href="https://www.opb.org/pdf/IP44%20-%20REI%20Statement%20Supplement_1602708982790.pdf" target="_blank">estimates</a> that the new laws will reduce convictions for drug possession by about 90 percent, from 4,057 convictions in 2019, to a projected 378 in 2021.<br></p><p>The commission's report also estimates that drug convictions among Black and Indigenous Oregonians may drop by 94 percent, and that racial disparities in drug arrests could drop by the same amount.</p><p>If more Oregonians stay out of the criminal justice system, it could help more people find employment, housing, addiction services and student loans, all of which can be harder to access with a drug conviction on your record. </p><p>It's also conceivable that the new initiative will reduce contentious interactions between Oregonians and law enforcement, which, potentially, could lead to lower arrest rates for other infractions, and create fewer opportunities for police interactions to turn violent.</p><p>Alternatively, if the initiative frees up time and resources for Oregon law enforcement, the state could see arrests rise for other types of crimes. That may include arresting more dealers and traffickers, considering the new laws only apply to users carrying small amounts. If police focus on the suppliers, it will likely change the dynamics of Oregon's illegal drug trade.</p>
Drug use rates<p>How will removing the threat of jail and steep fines change drug use and overdose rates? It's hard to say for sure, but Portugal's 2001 decision to decriminalize drugs provides some clues. In the years following decriminalization, the nation's drug overdose deaths and <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/portugal-drug-decriminalization/" target="_blank">HIV infection rates dropped significantly</a>, while <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1464837" target="_blank">drug usage either stayed constant or decreased</a>.<br></p><p>That drug use remained constant or decreased may be because Portugal only decriminalized drugs, meaning drugs weren't legally available for purchase at something like a marijuana dispensary. But it's also worth noting that Portugal invested money in addiction treatment services, as Oregon <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Oregon_Measure_110,_Drug_Decriminalization_and_Addiction_Treatment_Initiative_(2020)#How_is_the_drug_addiction_treatment_and_recovery_program_funded.3F" target="_blank">plans to do with tax revenues from marijuana sales and savings on correctional services</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Most accounts of the Portugal experiment have focused on decriminalization, but decriminalization was part of a broader effort intended to encourage treatment," <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/law-and-social-inquiry/article/uses-and-abuses-of-drug-decriminalization-in-portugal/1F68DA5A8F0369F3FBA6B2B04E454BBE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hannah Laqueur</a>, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of California, Davis, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/upshot/portugal-drug-legalization-treatment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told</a> <em>The New York Times</em>.</p><p>Oregon will be a particularly interesting case study for decriminalization's effects on drug usage, considering the state ranks among the worst for <a href="https://www.wweek.com/news/state/2019/10/02/nobody-can-beat-oregon-for-drug-use-and-abuse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rates of addiction, use, and overdose</a>.</p>
Treatment rates<p>Although Oregon plans to expand investments in treatment programs for drug users, some are worried the new initiative will discourage people from seeking help.<br></p><p>John Kitzhaber, a former E.R. physician in Oregon, called for Oregonions to reject the measure, writing on his <a href="https://blog.johnkitzhaber.com/vote-no-on-measure-110/" target="_blank">blog</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Measure 110 would eliminate this invaluable tool by reducing the possession of highly addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone to a "violation," which means the court will no longer have the ability to offer people the choice to pursue treatment. It also means that a teenager caught in possession of heroin or meth will only receive a ticket, which in many counties means that parents won't be informed of their child's drug use."</p><p>Still, even if Oregon's measure reduces the number of people who get treatment, that wouldn't necessarily be an indictment of decriminalization writ large, but rather the specific way the state is allocating funds. Kitzhaber concluded his post with a sentiment shared by both drug reform advocates and some of the measure's opponents: "Incarcerating people who suffer from addiction should not be tolerated."</p>
Monopolies wield an immense amount of economic and political power and influence. So what can we do to make the economy more equitable?
- According to Vanderbilt law professor and author Ganesh Sitaraman, America has a monopoly problem—a problem that is almost universally acknowledged as such, yet little is done about it.
- Sitaraman explains how monopolies of today share DNA with trusts of the 19th century, and how the increased concentration and consolidation of these corporations translates to increased power both economically and politically.
- "We need to think about reinvigorating our anti-trust laws and the principles of anti-monopoly that gave spirit to those laws and to lots of other regulations," he argues. Restoring faith in government and the economy starts with dismantling the things that make people question its allegiances and priorities.
Can we end world hunger by 2030? Thanks to a new program, the data for it is all there.
- An international team of researchers has released a series of studies geared towards ending world hunger.
- They are thought to be some of the first people to use Evidence Synthesis for agricultural data.
- Their ideas could increase food production and lower poverty for a low cost, regardless if they meet their lofty goal.
Who are these people?<p> Headquartered at Cornell University, <a href="https://ceres2030.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ceres2030 </a>is a collective project involving people from around the world. It is financed in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. <br> <br> The enterprise includes more than 70 researchers from 23 different countries with the best information available on what works to reduce <a href="https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/10/cornell-unites-science-and-policy-end-hunger" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hunger</a>. These researchers are divided into eight teams, each covering a separate subject area. Each group reviews the literature and combines it into a general review which can be used to inform policy <a href="https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/10/cornell-unites-science-and-policy-end-hunger" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decisions</a>. </p>
What do they want us to do?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D1eFcqZE3xU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> The analysis shows that many studies agree on the benefits of a few, straightforward initiatives. Among these findings are game-changing ideas <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-020-00795-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">like</a>:<br> <br> Farmer's organizations help their members increase both their incomes and crop yields. Membership was linked with higher incomes in nearly 60 percent of studies, and benefits to crop yields were demonstrated in a quarter. These organizations play a part in helping farmers adopt modern techniques, tools, and crop types to help implement other policy suggestions. Assisting people in joining them can have a tremendous impact on their lives.</p><p>In the middle and lower-income countries, nearly three-quarters of small farmers live and work in areas where water is scarce. The vast majority of these farms do not have an irrigation system to speak of. Output and income could both be increased by addressing this infrastructure issue. Helping farmers switch to more climate change and drought-resistant crops and introduce new and improved livestock sources, both as sources of labor and food, can improve productivity and keep people resilient in the face of climate change. </p><p>These are just a handful of the ideas Ceres2030 endorse in their press releases. In each case, they point to piles of data showing the effectiveness of these ideas in increasing incomes, crop yields, and small producers' resiliency in the face of threats such as climate change. It could cost roughly 14 billion dollars more a year in aid to do it, about twice as much as we are spending on the problem now, alongside new investments by the governments of nations most plagued by <a href="https://ceres2030.org/shorthand_story/donors-must-double-aid-to-end-hunger-and-spend-it-wisely/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hunger</a>. </p><p>All of these ideas can be implemented tomorrow; many places have already done these things. It is only a matter of deciding to do it. Some of the findings and ideas are even simpler than these, including discovering that we <a href="https://osf.io/6zc92/" target="_blank">waste a lot of food</a> and that simple solutions can prevent much of it. <br><br>More information on their ideas and how they came to their conclusions can be found on the Ceres2030 <a href="https://ceres2030.org/" target="_blank">website</a>. <br></p>
Will this work?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9CdZSakEqBU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> It might. <br> <br> The findings and recommendations are based on extensive research, histories of successful implementation elsewhere, and a sincere desire to use evidence to help people. Following them would lead to better-informed farmers making more money while sustainably growing more food. The recommendations are neither one-size-fits-all, nor are they overly specific to the point where they cannot be <a href="https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/10/cornell-unites-science-and-policy-end-hunger" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">generalized</a>. <br> <br> There are also plenty of reasons to be pessimistic. A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7015855/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published this year in Nature argues that we will not be able to end world hunger by 2030. It takes the stance that some countries with endemic malnourishment are unlikely to reach their development targets for 2025, let alone the more ambitious goals for 2030. <br> <br> The costs of not at least making progress on this front are very high. Without progress, an additional 100 million people could end up both hungry and mired in extreme poverty by the end of the decade, according to an <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimate</a> by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some regression already, as economic difficulty leads to empty bellies. <br> <br> The entirety of human history has been marked by attempts to produce enough food for everybody, and it is only recently (relatively speaking) that we've managed to do that. Today, we grow enough food for 10 billion people but seem to have difficulty getting it to the people who need it most. The suggestions of the Ceres2030 team, if followed, offer the chance to finally rid the world of hunger and famine for less than $50 per currently malnourished person per year. <br> <br> It's only a question of doing it. Let's see if we want to. </p>
Law professor Ganesh Sitaraman explains why America has never achieved true democracy—and how it can.
- Three essential components of democracy are economic equality, social unity, and a government that acts in the interest of the people. America lacks all three of those components, says Vanderbilt University Law School Professor Ganesh Sitaraman.
- "In study after study, political scientists have shown that our government is responsive primarily to the wealthy and interest groups, not to ordinary people," says Sitaraman. "A system of government that is mostly unresponsive to the people is not a democracy at all."
- Sitaraman argues that the neoliberal era is what divided America and continues to prevent the country from realizing a true democracy. In this video, he explains the problem with neoliberalism and how a new agenda could create far better opportunities.
Confirmation bias is baked into the DNA of America, but it may soon be the nation's undoing.
- From America's inception, there has always been a rebellious, anti-establishment mentality. That way of thinking has become more reckless now that the entire world is interconnected and there are added layers of verification (or repudiation) of facts.
- As the great minds in this video can attest, there are systems and mechanisms in place to discern between opinion and truth. By making conscious efforts to undermine and ignore those systems at every turn (climate change, conspiracy theories, coronavirus, politics, etc.), America has compromised its position of power and effectively stunted its own growth.
- A part of the problem, according to writer and radio host Kurt Andersen, is a new media infrastructure that allows for false opinions to persist and spread to others. Is it the beginning of the end of the American empire?