PORTLAND, Ore. — The budtenders of the Rose City are relentlessly helpful with tips pairing a marijuana strain that is “equal parts fruity and musky” with a stimulating Sichuan dish. As Oregon, the place where empires once clashed over the global trade of beaver furs, glides into a second year of legalized recreational pot, the state is determined to show the world that a certain kind of drug prohibition belongs in history’s Dumpster.

Soon, with the likely passage of legal pot in California next month, all of the West Coast — from the tundra of Alaska to the sun-washed suburbs of San Diego — will be a confederacy of state-regulated marijuana use.

Across the Pacific, a completely a different view of drug use is playing out in the horror of the Philippines. That country is ruled by Rodrigo Duterte, a crude and brutal strongman known as the Donald Trump of the Philippines. Under his watch, more than 3,500 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed. Many of those murders are “extrajudicial,” as the State Department calls them.

Comparing his vigilante campaign to Hitler’s Holocaust, the Philippine president recently said “I’d be happy to slaughter” three million drug users. By killing that many of his own people, Duterte said he would “finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.” This is a Category 5 human rights disaster in the making, and should be universally condemned.

The world has always been bipolar when it comes to our fellow humans prone to addiction and chemical diversion. One impulse is hysterical — the sweeping, lock-’em-up tragedy of the United States following the crack epidemic, the numerous executions in places like Iran and the Philippines. The other is historical, at least by modern standards: the attempt by states in the American West (and a ballot measure in Maine this year) to call out the drug war for the farce that it is.

Throughout these swings, little has changed among a vulnerable cohort of humanity. And until a way is found to permanently balance dopamine levels, we will always have small but significant portion of the population prone to addiction. Benjamin Franklin abused laudanum, an opium and alcohol mixture for his bodily pains. And Sigmund Freud was more than a casual user of cocaine.

The current opioid epidemic in places not usually associated with drug dens and dirty needles shows that addiction is not confined to ZIP codes of economic despair. On Staten Island, home to many a New York cop, there have been 71 deaths attributed to heroin overdose so far this year.

Heroin is the drug of choice in small towns in New England and wide-open rural areas across the country. Blacks and Latinos use and sell drugs at roughly the same rate as whites, but 57 percent of the people locked up for a drug offense in 2014 were nonwhite.

Perhaps because so many addicts are white and suburban, or white and rural, there is now a rare bipartisan consensus emerging for wholesale reform of the drug laws.

We can start, nationwide, with marijuana. Though legalization is not without its problems — a spike in emergency room visits attributed to edible pot, persistent black market dealers — it’s mostly been no big deal. Across the legalized West, consumers frequent their corner pot shop to talk varietals and buzz strength. Homegrown gardeners pass on suggestions to avoid bud rot as harvest nears. Tax revenue from sales — though not a panacea — flows to schools and roads and treatment programs.

It all works, for the most part. And when California, now the world’s sixth largest economy, passes its legal pot measure in November as expected, it will truly be game over for this absurd form of prohibition.
So why are nearly 600,000 people arrested in the United States for simple possession of marijuana every year? And why is pot still illegal on the federal level? People in the loop of this policing circle know it is an absurd and Sisyphean use of law enforcement.

The opioid crisis is a tougher problem. Some years ago, at the height of the crack scare, I was given an assignment to go to the worst drug dens in urban America. I ran into my share of scary and sketchy dudes, yes. But where I expected to see “super-predators” and lifetime addled “crack babies,” I instead found a fascinating variety of people struggling with an ancient affliction. Many of them could not get into treatment.

A clear majority of Americans now favor pot legalization. The problem is the federal government, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and L.S.D. If pot was legalized nationwide, with a tax on every sale designated for treatment, it would free up the police to get at serious crimes, while ensuring that no addict would be denied treatment for lack of funds. As with most social reforms, it only seems impossible until it’s obvious.