JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Progressives push drug legalization lie, amidst fatal OD surge and past failures

May 9, 2022, 6:20 PM
A volunteer collects heroin syringes from a homeless encampment on March 12, 2022 in Seattle, Washi...
A volunteer collects heroin syringes from a homeless encampment on March 12, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The Pacific Northwest faces an alarming surge of drug overdose deaths. It’s so bad that the Washington Department of Health recommends residents carry two doses of overdose medication on them at all times.

Instead of truly combatting the drug crisis, left-wing activists hope to legalize drug possession under the guise of treatment. And the only way they can earn support is by lying about their plans.

Initiative 1922 removes all penalties for all drug possession in personal use amounts, including fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin. It uses the marijuana tax to better fund substance abuse services, which the state desperately needs. But it also mandates tax dollars be spent to promote “harm reduction” strategies, which include handing out needles to addicts to hasten their inevitable overdose death.

Fringe progressives used the past two years to push through “police reimaging” bills that made the state less safe. Now they’re telling us their not done infecting this state with deadly ideas.

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Initiative 1922 will kill more addicts

Activists present I-1922 as a way to get addicts into treatment, instead of into the criminal justice system. Except, the initiative won’t do that.

Proponents lazily argue that the “War on Drugs” doesn’t work, even though that war was abandoned here years ago in the most densely populated areas of Washington. When was the last time there was an arrest, let alone a prosecution, of someone smoking fentanyl on a bus or on a street corner? It takes a secondary crime for enforcement, which I-1992 wouldn’t do away with.

The argument is also pitched through an equity lens, of course: people of color were disproportionately impacted by drug laws, thus putting them into jail is racist.

But putting them into jail stops their inevitable overdose death and allows them to sober up long enough to realize they’ve hit rock bottom and will finally take up treatment. If they’re unwilling to take us up on our offers of treatment, then they can stay in jail.

There’s no mechanism to enforce or leverage treatment on an addict.

Currently, there are seldom legal consequences for criminal addicts who keep using and committing crimes to feed their addiction without accepting the help that’s offered. I-1922 puts funding into drug treatment, without any threat of jail to push someone into the services. So all a drug dealer has to do is say they don’t want treatment, and there’s nothing anyone can do while they continue to destroy their lives.

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Comparing Washington to Oregon

Matt Driscoll, the state’s most mediocre columnist (of all the ocres, he’s the mediest), calls I-1922 a “no brainer” and cites Oregon as a success story.

Oregon effectively passed the same initiative, though it still allows for civil infractions of $100. It went into effect on February 2021 and, thus far, has been an abject failure.

Out of roughly 2,000 drug citations over a year, only 19 requested drug treatment resources via the hotline they’re supposed to call after being ticketed. And nearly half of those receiving citations skipped out on court.

Overall, addicts used resources funded by the measure. But the majority of the resources used were items that kept them addicted under a “harm reduction model:” clean needles and overdose medication like Naloxone. Only 0.85% of the 16,000 addicts who sought resources went into drug rehab.

It’s no wonder why Driscoll can’t cite meaningful data in praising Oregon’s measure.

“One of the things they’ve found is, in fact, arrests have gone down… and there has not been a substantial increase in drug use. That’s the other fear that people often have. It’s an understandable fear,” Driscoll told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Obviously, there would be fewer arrests because they decriminalized drug possession. To claim that as a victory is bizarre. There’s also no data suggesting there hasn’t been a “substantial increase in drug use” and, heading into drug decriminalization, Oregon had the highest substance use stats in the country. There is plenty of data, however, showing overdose deaths have gotten worse.

Oregon’s fatal drug overdose surge

More Oregonians are consuming fentanyl and they’re dying in record numbers.

Medical testing and laboratory firm Millennium Health released an analysis of fentanyl positivity during drug tests. There was a 58% increase in fentanyl positivity during the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same time last year. Since 2020, there’s been a 163% increase in positive drug tests.

Oregon’s 2021 year-over-year overdose deaths increased 41%, compared to a 16% increase nationwide. So far this year, visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, due to opioid use, are as high as it was in 2021.

And while the crisis hits adults hard, it’s teens who are becoming disproportionate victims of the drug surge.

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The lies about success

By any objective measure, Oregon has been a failure. Yet proponents of decriminalization claim this is all a success? Their new definition is rather telling. Success is not that addicts seek treatment, but that the state stops enforcing laws.

“Some people are really looking for decriminalization to lead to sobriety, and what I would say is that decriminalization can lead people to a path where they make the decision of sobriety, but our metric for decriminalization, the way that we evaluate if it’s successful, is if people are no longer criminalized,” Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said.

That’s not how these movements are sold when they’re trying to get voter support.

In Oregon, the very first page of the measure focused on addiction treatment and recovery. The measure was literally called Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. Instead, the only “success” is that it hands out tools to addicts to maintain their addiction with the harm reduction model.

“[F]rom our perspective, 60% of the people accessing harm reduction services means that we have more people alive today because of these funds, and because of the services that we’re invested in,” said Tera Hurst, executive director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance.

Keep this scourge away from Washington

I-1922 would bring Oregon’s failure to Washington. Failure means more addiction and more needless death.

Washington saw a 60% increase in fatal overdoses in 2021, and the state Department of Health (WADOH) says the surge is continuing into 2022. More than half the overdose deaths involve fentanyl, and males under the age of 45 are hit the hardest.

While proponents of the initiative, like Driscoll and others, claim their push is to help minority communities stay out of jail, it actually helps push them into an early grave. Minority communities have the fastest growing rate of deaths from overdose, according to WADOH’s report. They won’t get help with I-1922 as the movement is more offering harm reduction services than pushing people into treatment. By taking away the leverage of jail time over an addict, we’re removing a tool that can be used to help save some addicts.

The only way an idea like I-1922 can win — or look good in polling — is when it’s tied to treatment. If you give a pass to the homeless addict smoking fentanyl on a Seattle bus, with the implicit promise that they’ll get treatment, it would be a popular pitch to the voters. It’s why proponents like Driscoll frame it in those terms.

But the reality is, I-1922 merely brings more free needles and booty-bumping kits to addicts, hastening their inevitable death.

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Rantz: Progressives push drug legalization lie, amidst fatal OD surge and past failures