Steve A. Stone
A libertarian's reaction to one statistic
By Steve A. Stone
June 6, 2022

Dear Friends and Patriots,

The link below is to something I heard discussed live on Glen Beck's program last week. It involves the short-term effects of decriminalization of all drug use. The click bait headline is about the 700% rise in overdoses in Oregon since decriminalization. I want to add a bit of different context to that information.

First, read the article at:

Here's the thing you need to consider. Before the second third of last century there were hardly any anti-drug laws in this country at all. We had laudanum addicts all through the 19th Century, and there were some addicted to turpin hydrate, even into the mid-20th century. There were some opium users, but heroin was not a factor of significance until the second half of the 20th century, way after most hard drug use was made a federal crime. Then, also in the late 20th century, came the national barbiturate abuse problem. Since then we've gone through many drug fads that have taken the lives of countless people. There was powder cocaine, then crack, then "speed," "ice," or "crank," or "meth." No matter what you call it, speed by any other name is still speed. We also had the psychoactive drugs, like LSD and the "magic mushrooms." We had valium and quaalude addicts. But, the point is not the plethora of drugs, but the social factors that make people seek them.

People use drugs for all kinds of reasons, just like they do pretty much anything else. If a person wants to indulge in something risky, they'll always find a rationale and an excuse. The validity of their consideration is inconsequential – the outcome isn't. But, the real question is – do nanny-state laws actually work? Headlines like the one on the article suggest they might, but one has to look deeper to understand exactly what's going on. The number "700%" is startling in itself, but that doesn't give you the contributing factors. It doesn't inform you of the truth of drug tourism, something residents of Colorado know about all too well. Decriminalization acts as a magnet for the adventurous and stupid. It also doesn't illuminate the truth of fentanyl and that lacing more common drugs with fentanyl is one of the newer phenomena in the drug trade. The tourism aspect of the situation means the concentration of drug users goes up whenever any place stops enforcement actions. For a short while the native per-capita use rate goes up as well. The adulteration by fentanyl almost guarantees vastly more trips to the ER all by itself. The combination of those two factors is what's being seen in Oregon.

Now I want you to take a different view on this entire subject, a bit of a longer-term view. Study the situation in Portugal back in the '90s and realize it compared to Oregon before the drug decriminalization began. Portugal decided on a national level to decriminalize drugs. They did it after the point where the nation had become the drug haven of choice, despite their laws. They decided to decriminalize as an antidote. Harsher drug laws weren't giving them relief, perhaps going the other way would. They did something smart, though. They funneled all the money programmed for drug law enforcement into drug education, treatment, and rehabilitation programs. They saw an immediate spike in the obvious use of drugs in the country, but within only a couple of years the people began to notice their social problems caused by drugs began to wane. The rate of petty crimes began to fall. ER visits also declined. Open air drug use seemed to be less and less prevalent. Citizens of the cities no longer woke up to find dead druggies in the gutters of downtown streets. It seems their new policy worked. After ten years Portugal still had drug users – when in history have there never been? But, the problem was sustained at a much lower rate. The worst problems of attendant crime had abated. OD rates were back to the same levels they were in the '60s – still too high, but manageable.

What am I suggesting? That if we give Oregon's decriminalization time there will be a self-correction taking place. That assumes they're doing the other half – funneling money into programs designed to illustrate the negative aspects of drug use and to wean people off them. Illegal fentanyl is going to be a problem as long as China keeps making and shipping it to Mexico. It will continue as long as the Mexican cartels bring it across our southern border. The situation there needs different attention that Oregon can't give.

No answer has ever been devised that will curtail risky behavior. People are strange – they like their thrills. Some also seem to reject their normal, undrugged state and prefer to think they're somehow better when under the influence. It's the same delusion many alcoholics and problem drinkers operate under. It seems to me there's a big psychological issue there that today's society hardly acknowledges. 12-step programs help. Drug rehab centers help. But there's a deep psychopathology there that begs for more intense attention – and that is no longer readily available. It hasn't been for over 50 years. Today there are only two solutions offered – ignore or incarcerate.

The answers to the problems illuminated by the article are in the past. We keep looking to the future for the answers to our problems, but that's not the right direction. The future seems to always lead us down paths that create ever-worse problems. We need to stop that and look to our past. We need to understand what worked then and put those things back into our lives and societies. We'll never get better until we do.

We either return to a society of interdependence and familial concern for each other, or we continue on our present road of total social and familial alienation. We either learn how to connect with each other again and communicate or we continue to keep our heads down while we play games on our smart phones. The future is always ahead. But, the answers for what our future should look like are in the past.

The "old ways?' Yeah, many of them were better.

In Liberty,


© Steve A. Stone


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Steve A. Stone

Steve A. Stone is and always will be a Texan, though he's lived outside that great state for all but 3 years since 1970, remembering it as it was, not as it is. He currently resides in Lower Alabama with a large herd of furry dependents, who all appear to be registered Democrats. Steve retired from the U.S. Coast Guard reserves in 2011, after serving over 22 years in uniform over the span of four decades. His service included duty on two U.S. Navy attack submarines, and one Navy and two U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Units. He is now retired after working as a senior civil servant for the U.S. Navy for over 31 years. Steve is a member of the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee and Common Sense Campaign, South Alabama's largest Tea Party. He is also a member of SUBVETS, Inc., and a life member of both the NRA and the Submarine League. In 2018, Steve created 671 Press LLC as his own marquee to publish his books under—he does it his way.


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